GM Tom Telesco says Chris Watt is Chargers starting center -- for now

"I don't look at him any different than I did last year," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said of Chris Watt, "except that I'm really hoping that he can stay healthy because he's a really good football player." Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

BOCA RATON, FL. -- Drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft as the San Diego Chargers' answer to replace longtime center Nick Hardwick once he retired, Chris Watt has played in just 17 of 32 games through two seasons.

Watt has dealt with a series of nagging injuries. He finished the 2015 season on the injured reserve with a shoulder issue that required surgery once the season was over. Watt also dealt with concussion issues and an ankle injury that required surgery after his rookie season in 2014.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said on Monday that for now he still views Watt as the team's starting center.

Telesco could make a move in the draft or free agency to improve the depth at the center position.

"We view him as a player no differently this year as we did last year at the same time," Telesco said. "But we also know that he's got to prove it, too. He's got to show it on the field. That's just where we are with that.

"I don't look at him any different than I did last year, except that I'm really hoping that he can stay healthy because he's a really good football player."

Backup center Trevor Robinson made 13 starts at center with Watt out last season. And while Robinson has a comfort level with quarterback Philip Rivers, the Chargers still need to find the long-term answer at the center position.

According to ESPN's Roster Management System, the Chargers have about $13.9 million in cap space as of Saturday. That's still enough to do business during the second wave of free agency, perhaps signing a mid-level prospect.

Players like centers Stefen Wisniewski or Manuel Ramirez remain a possibility for San Diego to add. The price tag for those players will go down significantly after the draft at the end of April.

The Chargers are No. 19 in the NFL in terms of available salary cap space, so it will be hard to compete against teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who lead the league with over $58 million in cap space.

A more likely scenario for the Chargers is to focus more of their attention towards the draft and the evaluation of college prospects.

The Chargers also have to eventually sign contract extensions with core players currently on the roster like receiver Keenan Allen and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram.

Both enter the final year of their rookie deals in 2016.

Telesco said back in February at the scouting combine that the Chargers have a limited amount to spend after accounting for several other expenses, including restricted and exclusive rights free-agent tenders, budgeting for draft picks and undrafted rookies, paying for in-season injury replacements, signing the team's own unrestricted free agents, and saving some room for potential extensions for core young players.

"Nothing we've done in free agency would preclude from taking someone in the draft," Telesco said. "And that was kind of the goal. Do we want to sign more guys before the draft? I don't want to, but we could.

"Obviously, the pool of players is much smaller now than it was two weeks ago. So if the right fit is there, we certainly could. So we're still monitoring it. I think last year we signed some guys as we got closer to the draft. So we'll see."