San Diego Chargers cut 19 players, including tight end John Phillips

Despite Antonio Gates being suspended for the first four games of the season, the Chargers decided to let go tight end John Phillips. Jake Roth/Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers announced that the team released or waived 19 players in an effort to reach the limit of 53 players on the roster by the NFL’s Saturday deadline of 1 p.m. PT.

The Chargers also made a trade, sending offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to the Minnesota Vikings for a sixth-round selection in the 2016 draft. The move created room for undrafted rookie free agent Tyreek Burwell to make the 53-man roster.

Tight end Antonio Gates and offensive linemen Craig Watts will both begin the season on the suspended list and do not count against the team’s final roster. Gates and Watts are serving their four-game suspensions for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

In all, San Diego has 19 new players and nine rookies, including all five picks from this year’s draft class and four undrafted rookie free agents on the final roster.

But Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said he’s taking talent over potential in putting this year’s roster together.

“We’re really looking at what’s in the best interest of the team today,” McCoy said, when asked if he valued experienced players over rookies with potential. “We’re not looking at two or three years down the road. We’re trying to find a way to beat Detroit. We’re going to do whatever we think is in the best interest for this first week, and we’ll go through there.”

Most significant move: Veteran kicker Nick Novak was released in favor of undrafted rookie free agent Josh Lambo. Novak has been one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL but struggled on kickoffs. The chargers also saved about a million in cash by keeping the unproven Lambo over the 34-year-old Novak. While Lambo has a stronger leg, it will be interesting to see how he handles pressure kicks at the end of the game during the regular season. The release of veteran tight end John Phillips also is a surprise, considering Gates will be suspended the first four games.

Sirles traded to Vikings: The Chargers must feel good about their depth along the offensive line, trading versatile performer Sirles to the Vikings. At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Sirles can play four positions along the offensive line. The Chargers like the potential of Burwell, who at 6-5 and 305 pounds is athletic and has good feet.

Rookie receiver sticks: The Chargers kept another undrafted rookie free agent in Tyrell Williams. At 6-4 and 205 pounds, the Western Oregon product had a couple drops in the final preseason game but flashed impressive speed on a 63-yard touchdown reception. San Diego likely would have lost Williams through waivers had the team released him. The Chargers also kept undrafted rookie free agent inside linebacker Nick Dzubnar, who finished preseason as the team’s leading tackler.

What’s next: Players were given Saturday and Sunday off to rest. The Chargers return to Chargers Park for practice on Monday.

Chargers’ cuts: LB Chi Chi Ariguzo, CB Richard Crawford, CB Greg Ducre, WR Javontee Herndon, G Michael Huey, S John Lowdermilk, CB Jordan Mabin, OLB Ryan Mueller, TE Brian Parker, S Adrian Phillips, CB Lowell Rose, RB Dreamius Smith, QB Brad Sorensen, DT Damion Square, LB Colton Underwood (injured), G Kenny Wiggins, K Nick Novak, WR Austin Pettis, TE John Phillips.