It’s been a quiet free agency period thus far for the San Diego Chargers when it comes to signing big names. The Chargers have resisted the urge to spend big on free agents, instead adding depth in running back Donald Brown, tight end David Johnson, linebacker Kavell Conner and quarterback Kellen Clemens. The four signings come on top of the Chargers re-signing Donald Butler, Darrell Stuckey and Chad Rhinehart.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco struck a late night deal on Tuesday to bring in Brown from the Indianapolis Colts. The Chargers GM has familiarity with Brown from his time with the Colts, who drafted Brown with the 27th overall pick in the 2009 draft out of the University of Connecticut. Brown is coming off of the best season of his career in 2013 when he rushed for 537 yards on a 5.3 yard per carrying average while catching 27 passes for 214 yards. The former Colt will give the Chargers solid depth in the backfield and a nice alternative to Ryan Mathews, who has battled injuries during his Chargers career. Brown is a sure-handed player with just two career NFL fumbles. Johnson, who played the last four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers is a capable backup who has played fullback as well as tight end. He’s known as a solid blocker who will give the Chargers versatility in the run game as well as an additional option in the passing game. Like in his acquisition of Donald Brown GM Telesco went with familiarity in signing Kavell Conner away from the Colts. Conner is a bit of a reclamation project after not starting a single game with the Indianapolis Colts during the 2013 season. With Donald Butler and Manti Teo manning the inside linebacker positions the signing of Conner is more of a depth move. Conner is known for his ability to stop the run. Looking to add depth at the quarterback spots the Chargers opted not to re-sign Charlie Whitehurst and signed Kellen Clemens, recently of the St. Louis Rams. Clemens, a former starter with the New York Jets ended up starting a majority of the season in 2013 for the Rams. The former Oregon Duck should be a solid backup for veteran Philip Rivers. Clemens has started 21 games in his NFL career, with an 8-13 record.
With only $5 million in available salary cap the Chargers were never going to be major players, like the Denver Broncos, in free agency this offseason. Instead, Telesco has wisely added some depth players while holding on to some key contributors who were free agent eligible. The Chargers re-signed Donald Butler and special teams ace Darrell Stuckey. They also locked up Chad Rhinehart to a two-year contract, providing stability on the offensive line. Telesco also was able to get wide receiver Eddie Royal and linebacker Jarret Johnson to restructure their contracts, giving the team additional flexibility. The key now is a success in the draft, like in 2013 where three key starters were found in the first three picks.
The Chargers moves may not match the Super Bowl or bust attitude in Denver, but GM Telesco is wisely maintaining his depth and core while emphasizing continued growth through the upcoming draft. They may not compete with the Broncos for the top of the division but the Chargers should be solid wild card contributors once again.
Learn about the Chargers new stadium seating chart in Inglewood California.