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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chargers Team Report 2-18-10

Source: SD Tribune/USA Today

Antonio Cromartie has been and remains on the trading block.

It was reported last March that the Chargers planned to try to trade Cromartie but that those plans were contingent on the club acquiring another cornerback. Four weeks ago, following the 2009 season, it was reported that the Chargers likely would try to trade Cromartie again.

Rumblings about his being traded have grown recently, and league sources Wednesday said the Chargers actually have been shopping Cromartie for the better part of the past year.

The team was involved in talks regarding Cromartie up until the October trading deadline and has had feelers out the bulk of this offseason, sources said.

“We’re not discussing any information on any of our players,” Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said Wednesday. “If there is anything to report on any of our players we’ll let you know immediately.”

Smith said in his end-of-the year news conference last February that the Chargers had players “who have to step up … I’m uncertain about a few guys.” Cromartie was one of the players to whom he was referring.

Cromartie had 10 interceptions in 2007 but has just five in the two seasons since, and his lack of physicality and a perceived laissez faire attitude has worn on teammates and coaches.

The team is ready to move on from its 2006 first-round draft pick, and Cromartie has told people close to him he would like to be traded.

One source said the team talked with the Dallas Cowboys recently about a deal involving Cowboys running back Tashard Choice, though it was not known whether there were any other components involved in a potential deal. The Cowboys were not interested.

It is not known if the Chargers will be able to work a deal for Cromartie, though talks are expected to pick up at the Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis. Whether or not Cromartie can be traded, it is virtually certain that 2010 would be his final season as a Charger.

Before any team would trade for Cromartie, whose contract expires after 2010, it almost certainly would negotiate a contract extension.

Antoine Cason, the Chargers’ 2008 first-round pick, would be Cromartie’s heir apparent. But the Chargers likely will look to draft a cornerback, even if they keep Cromartie for 2010.

Cason is still seen as a future starter at cornerback despite the fact he lost his job as the No. 1 nickel back midway through last season. Sources have said the team was not pleased with how Cason played in September and October after showing great promise in the spring and summer, but it believes he will improve and has the tools to play outside at corner.


—Coach Don Coryell, after advancing to the finalist stage for the first time, was denied in his bid to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It was a good first step,” said Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, who is leading the charge for his old coach. “And we will be back every year until we get him to Canton.”

—With his me-or-the-highway approach and regal manner in which he carries himself, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith is called by some as “The Lord of No Rings.” After Drew Brees won the recent Super Bowl, that made four Super Bowl rings accumulated by quarterbacks Smith has passed on: Ben Roethlisberger (two), Eli Manning (one) and Brees (one). Roethlisberger was passed over by Smith in the draft, he traded Manning and let Brees walk as a free agent.

—LT Marcus McNeill is already talking in past tense about one of the greatest Chargers ever. “At least I had the opportunity to play for one of the greatest,” McNeill on blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson, who isn’t expected to return next year.

—GM A.J. Smith said all this talk about LaDainian Tomlinson’s future is premature: “We haven’t made any decisions yet.”

—Assistant head coach Rod Chudzinski withdrew his name from the now-filled post as the Bears’ offensive coordinator after interviewing with Chicago.

—The Chargers have declined to exercise an out clause in their contract with the city and will stay in San Diego at least one more year as they try to build momentum for a downtown venue next door to the Padres’ Petco Park. “I think we have made it pretty clear that we intended to stay and keep working on the downtown site in 2010,” said Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “That’s what happens when you take a guy who’s done so much and you make him feel like he’s not part of the team.” — TE Antonio Gates on why LaDainian Tomlinson felt disconnected from the club.


The biggest focus here will be on players as coach Norv Turner was granted a three-extension the day after the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs.

There doesn’t appear to be any imminent changes to the staff, despite the fact defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was among Chargers coaches on other team’s radars.


The biggest news, early on, will be the Chargers parting ways with running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

It’s clear the future Hall of Famer isn’t going to return at any price, as his pride was wounded during a season in which he was an afterthought in the offense.

The team also has to decide how to attack Darren Sproles, another running back. He was given $6 million last year, and that seems to be a little rich for a guy who can’t rush every down — but is a heck of a returner and receiver out of the backfield.

It was believed the Chargers wouldn’t bring back outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, but in an uncapped year, his return is more plausible.

The team also needs to structure a long-term deal for left tackle Marcus McNeill, a key part of an offense which leans so heavily on the pass.


1. Running back: With LaDainian Tomlinson not expected to return and Darren Sproles not being an every-down back, the Chargers need to shore up this position.

2. Defensive tackle: Jamal Williams missed all but one game last year injured; the Chargers have to face the fact he is returning for his 13th season this year. A replacement here is needed.

3. Cornerback: If the Chargers go a different direction in regard to starter Antonio Cromartie, a replacement needs to be found. He may not be on the roster, and that includes former first-round pick Antoine Cason.

MEDICAL WATCH: DT Jamal Williams (arm) is expected to be ready for training camp.

—LT Jeromey Clary (ankle) is hopeful to be fit by training camp.

—OLB Antwan Applewhite (ankle) is rehabbing and expected back for offseason workouts.

—CB Brandon Hughes (knee) should be back for offseason work.

—DT Ryon Bingham (triceps) should be back for the minicamps.

—C/G Scott Mruczkowski (ankle) could be challenged to return in time for minicamps.

—OLB Jyles Tucker (ankle) should be back for training camp; minicamp could be a stretch.

—WR Demetrius Byrd is still recovering from injuries sustained just before the draft. He could be in the mix by the time minicamps arrive.

—DL Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) and he could be back in time for training camp.

—LB James Holt (knee); his status has yet to be determined.




—DT Alfonso Boone filled a need last year but the team looks to get younger here.

—TE Brandon Manumaleuna is a solid blocker and should return — he likes the offense.

—C Dennis Norman is at a spot where the team has depth and likely won’t come back.

—WR Kassim Osgood is a three-time Pro Bowler as a special-teamer; he wants to try his luck at receiver and could flee.

—OL Jon Runyan is going to retire and run for Congress.

—DT Ian Scott doesn’t have the upside the Chargers are looking for and will likely depart.

—TE Kris Wilson is a solid special-teams player, but if someone offers him more of a chance to contribute in a base offense, he’s gone.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

—RT Jeromey Clary will return but will be pushed by Brandyn Dombrowski for a starting job.

—*ILB Tim Dobbins is a solid backup after getting lapped by Brandon Siler; should return.

—*WR Malcom Floyd could likely get more passes thrown his way elsewhere, but he likes San Diego and will likely to a little less to remain here.

—*DT Antonio Garay was a late-season addition and doesn’t figure in the team’s plans moving forward.

—*C Eric Ghiaciuc won’t have a place with the number of linemen — when healthy — ahead of him.

—*OLB Marques Harris is a decent pass-rusher but the Chargers will likely see him go where he would get more of a chance to contribute.

—*WR Vincent Jackson is the team’s top receiver and will be brought back — unless the team has grown tired of his immaturity; that’s doubtful after two 1,000-yard seasons.

—*DL Travis Johnson will probably have to settle for less money, but the former first-round pick of the Texans might have found a home in San Diego.

—*LT Marcus McNeill is a stud at left tackle and among the team’s biggest offseason priorities.

—*OLB Shawne Merriman will return, possibly, if willing to swallow his pride and lower his price tag. A motivated Merriman playing on a one-year deal could be attractive to the Chargers.

—*RB Darren Sproles isn’t likely to be named the franchise player again this year and could flee if offered a long-term deal.

—*LB Dontarrious Thomas seldom saw the field when arriving late last year and appears to be a goner.

—*QB Charlie Whitehurst is learning a ton at the No. 3 spot, so he finally absorbs one more year of education and then moves on.


—OLB Antwan Applewhite can deliver a burst off the ball and is keen on special teams. He should be brought back.

—FB Mike Tolbert continues to improve and the Chargers could give him more carries in the base offense, depending on the situation at running back.