San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco talked with Darren Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM radio on Wednesday, addressing his team’s approach to free agency, which included the restructuring of a couple contracts to add more flexibility under the team’s salary cap.
You can listen to the full interview here.
Telesco was asked specifically about the moves his AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos, made in free agency, signing front-line players like DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward to bolster a porous defense.
“I’m more worried about us,” Telesco said. “If you want to talk about Denver, you can call John Elway, and I’m sure he’ll give you a great interview. They do a great job there. But I’ve got more than enough stuff on my plate here with the Chargers to be worrying about what we need to do here.”
San Diego has been much more conservative in free agency because the team has limited cap space. So Telesco understands he has to take a different approach than Denver in building the Chargers.
“It’s obviously not ideal, but everything we’ve wanted to do so far we’ve been able to do,” Telesco said. “Hey look, this is part of the job. Everybody has cap restrictions at different points of their team, no matter what year it is. So it’s just what we’re working through right now. It doesn’t really bother me. We just keep working through it. I’m not going to sit here and complain about it at all.”
According to the NFL Players Association’s daily salary-cap report, the Chargers are $3.65 million under the salary cap. Telesco negotiated a reduction in the total compensation in salary of Jarret Johnson, Dwight Freeney and Eddie Royal for the upcoming season.
Add to that number the release of Derek Cox, Le’Ron McClain and Johnny Patrick and the Chargers freed up roughly $9 million in salary-cap space by making those moves, allowing the team to retain key players like Donald Butler, Chad Rinehart and Darrell Stuckey, along with signing outside free agents Donald Brown, Kellen Clemens, Donald Johnson, Brandon Ghee and Kavell Conner.
“I know this may not have been a sexy offseason for us,” Telesco said. “But we had three things that we really had as a game plan of what we needed to get done this offseason. No. 1 was cleaning up our own house and restructuring some contracts to give us some cap flexibility this year to get some things done that we needed to get done. So that was a good start.
“And then our main priority this year was to re-sign some of our own players. Donald Butler obviously was a big part of that. Re-signing Darrell Stuckey, who’s an excellent special-teamer, was a big priority. And Chad Rinehart, who’s a starting left guard for us and played well, those were three guys that we wanted to get back in the fold. And also three guys that if we don’t have those guys, now we have more holes.”
Telesco mentioned the third priority was building depth, with the signing of players like Brown, Conner and Ghee.
San Diego still has a couple veterans who could be potential targets for restructure, including Jeromey Clary ($4.55 million), Mike Scifres ($3.25 million) and Malcom Floyd ($2.75 million). Telesco did not rule out the possibility redoing another player contract before the season starts in September.
“You never know,” Telesco said, when asked about the possibility of restructuring other contracts. “We’ve still got a long way to go before the opener after Labor Day. So there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to be happening between now and then.”
Telesco also addressed the release of Cox, the team’s top free-agent signing in 2013 who had a disappointing season last year.
“It was a tough decision,” he said. “Usually in those situations, you do want to give it some time, give it some patience. When people change teams, change environments, it’s not easy, but we just felt in this particular situation in this circumstance for both of us it was just better to move on. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you have to make tough decisions, move on and learn from it.”
Even with the signing of Brown to a three-year, $10.4 million deal that includes $4 million of guaranteed money, Telesco said that Ryan Mathews still is San Diego’s every-down running back.
“We know Ryan is our bell cow,” Telesco said. “He’s our No. 1 back. He had an excellent year last year. And we all know what Danny
Woodhead can do in his role. We saw that for 16 games last year. And we think Donald can come in and add to that, too, and give us some different options. And a different style, too. The more weapons we can have for Philip Rivers, the better.”