The San Diego Chargers signed former Denver Broncos punt return specialist Eddie Royal to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million on March 15, 2012. Royal had his worst year in 2012, posting a career-low 5.3 yards per punt return, which ranked last on San Diego’s roster.
According to U-T San Diego beat writer Michael Gehlken, Royal could be released. In response to a tweet, Gehlken said, “Not saying imminent, but Chargers would save $1.5 million by releasing Royal.”
Royal averaged 11.9 yards per punt return before the 2012 season. When San Diego’s front office signed Royal, it did so to improve on their 8.5 yards per punt return average in 2011, which ranked 22nd in the NFL. San Diego averaged 9.7 yards per punt return in 2012, which ranked 15th in the league, but this was mostly due to Michael Spurlock, who left as a free agent and signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason.
San Diego chose former California Golden Bears wide receiver/punt returner Keenan Allen in round three of the 2013 NFL Draft. This decision on draft day could make Royal expendable because Allen averaged 14.1 yards per punt return last year to go along with a return TD.
A reason why San Diego could keep Royal is due to their lack up depth at punt returner. Eric Weddle returned seven punts last year, and I am sure San Diego does not want their three-time All-Pro free safety returning punts again, which could happen if Royal is released and Allen gets injured.
The 2012 season could have been a setback for Royal, but his career average of 11.1 yards per punt return means that he is capable of having a bounce-back season in 2013.
Allen will more than likely get some opportunities to return punts this year and if he proves that he can be the guy, releasing Royal makes sense because he would be owed $6 million next season.