The San Diego Chargers entered free agency with an upbeat attitude despite having a mediocre combined record of just 24-24 over the past three seasons. With a complete front office overall and a new regime taking over, most fans felt as if things could only go up from here for the beleaguered Bolts. Unfortunately in a salary cap constrained NFL, turnarounds are often long, arduous processes that cannot be realized overnight.
On the first day of free agency when many teams are filled with optimism from making new signings that they feel will put them over the top for the upcoming season, the Chargers’ main transactions were of the addition by subtraction variety. Veteran tight end Randy McMichael and nose tackle Antonio Garay were given pink slips on the day. These moves were very much expected, but most anticipated they would lead to some bigger and better things for the team on the free agent market.
Not all was of the negative variety with tight end John Phillips being signed from the Dallas Cowboys as a younger, cheaper version of McMichael. The team also added depth to the offensive line by signing 6-foot-9, 330 pound tackle King Dunlap to a deal. Still none of these moves screamed out ‘improvement’ to a fan base that has gotten fed up in recent years.
Combine those underwhelming additions with former Bolts’ guard Louis Vasquez signing a big deal with the division rival Denver Broncos and the team not landing a high caliber replacement like Andy Levitre who signed a five-year, $39 million contract with the Tennessee Titans and you get some genuine disappointment.
Fortunately the team was able to redeem itself a bit on day two by signing the lesser known Buffalo Bills free agent guard Chad Rinehart to a one-year, $1.75 million deal. He is only one year older than Levitre and is a favorite of scouts around the league. Like Levitre, Rinehart’s familiarity with new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris’ zone-blocking scheme will be a big asset in San Diego during year one of the transition.
Things aren’t all bad with the Bolts as cornerback Jerraud Powers is scheduled to visit the team as well as the Arizona Cardinals over the coming days. If the Chargers can get him at a reasonable price to replace the departed Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, the skies may begin to brighten for a downtrodden fan base. They may still be a ways from the Super Bowl contenders from the mid-2000s, but these Bolts could see some immediate improvement in year one under head coach Mike McCoy.