So far, big money contracts have not been kind to Tom Telesco since he took over as general manager of the Chargers in 2013. Outside of re-signing Philip Rivers this past offseason to a four-year $83.25 million contract with $65 million guaranteed, Telesco’s big hits have been more like dribblers. He has hit on a few smaller free agent signings such as Danny Woodhead (two-years worth $5.5 million, $3 million guaranteed) and Patrick Robinson (one-year worth $2 million, $1.25 guaranteed), but when he’s shelled out serious cash, the Chargers have seen little return. Of the seven players below (not counting Weddle), only cornerback Derek Cox is no longer with the team, and of the six on this year’s active roster, three have missed a combined 10 games in 2015 (including four games with Donald Brown inactive and the fifth when he was cut—and later re-signed—before the win against Cleveland). Here’s to hoping the six with deals beyond this season pan out.
In no particular order…
Derek Cox (CB) – Telesco’s first and perhaps worst big free agent contract was a four-year, $20 million contract awarded to Cox before the 2013 season. Prior to signing with the Chargers, Cox played four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, recording 12 interceptions, 32 passes defended, and one forced fumble. However, his tenure in San Diego was nowhere near as productive. In his lone season as a Charger, Cox was benched late in the year because of poor play and didn’t see any snaps in the team’s two playoff games. He was cut before the 2014 season, meaning Telesco ended up paying Cox $10.25 million for just 11 starts. He hasn’t played in a NFL game since.
Donald Butler (ILB) – Telesco has yet to see any return on his first attempt at re-signing a home-grown guy (yes, he was drafted by A.J. Smith but you know what I mean). Butler signed a seven-year extension worth $51.8 million before the 2014 season. It’s a tricky contract, essentially a two-in-one deal. The first three years are worth nearly $20 million with $12 million of it guaranteed. After the third year, the team has an option to pick up the remaining four years at a base salary between $8 and $9.5 million a year with $15 million guaranteed. Butler was a huge disappointment last season. His role progressively decreased as the season went on, eventually leading to strictly a first and second down role before his season ended on injured reserve. He finished the year with a career worst 45 tackles in 13 starts. Butler’s back to playing regularly this season but the results haven’t been much better. He’s totaled just 11 tackles in five games this season, and is on pace to finish with just over 35. Not good for a pricey middle linebacker, or for any middle linebacker for that matter.
Donald Brown (RB) – Telesco signed Brown before the 2014 season on a three-year $10.5 million contract with $4 million guaranteed. His one “shining” moment with the Chargers came last year in Week 3 against the Bills when he filled in for the injured Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. He grinded out 62 yards on 31 carries–helping the Chargers control the clock–and caught five passes for 27 yards. He rushed a total of 45 times the remaining 10 games he was active. Since then, he hasn’t played a single snap for San Diego. He was inactive the first three games of this year, then was cut before the Cleveland game, then re-signed, and was once again inactive against Pittsburgh. Because he was on the active roster in Week 1, his $3 million salary this season is guaranteed. While not necessarily a “big” signing in terms of dollar amount, Brown is the highest paid running back on the Chargers roster this season. Hopefully his words of wisdom are music to Melvin Gordon’s ears because he’s one expensive insurance policy.
Brandon Flowers (CB) –After coming over from Kansas City before last season on a one-year deal, Telesco re-signed Flowers to a four-year contract worth $36 million with $20.5 million of it guaranteed. So far, not so good. Flowers has allowed four touchdowns in four games this season, including a 72-yard bomb from Michael Vick to Markus Wheaton last Monday night. Moreover, he’s relied on sound technique and football smarts in years past but at age 29, and already undersized, time may be catching up with him. It is important, however, to point out that there is still plenty of time to make up for a bad start. Plus, the Chargers dismal pass rush isn’t helping anyone in the secondary.
Corey Liuget (DE) – Liuget became Telesco’s second home-grown (see Butler re. A.J. Smith) player to sign an extension when he was awarded a five-year deal worth $58.5 million, $30 million of it guaranteed, this past offseason. Liuget is only five games in to his new deal, but early returns don’t appear to be worth it. The thought was that Liuget was on the cusp of breaking out (he still might) and could become a true force on the defensive line. Again, it’s early and Liuget has proven, at least, that he’s durable (unlike Butler) and fairly consistent. It’s just that he’s yet to take that next step like many thought he would. He recorded his first sack of the season late in the first half against Pittsburgh this past Monday.
Orlando Franklin (LG) – Prior to this season, Franklin started 63 of 64 games in four seasons for the Broncos. He was the definition of healthy. But, since injuring his ankle in Minnesota, Franklin has missed the last two games and his status for Sunday’s game in Green Bay is up in the air. His performance through three games has been average, if not just a notch above, although new faces and so many moving pieces on the line have hurt the entire unit from gaining any real traction. Like Flowers and Liuget, there’s time for improvement but he has to get back on the field. Telesco signed him this past offseason to a five-year, $36.5 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.
King Dunlap (LT) – Dunlap was the team’s best offensive lineman in 2014. He started all 16 games at left tackle for the first time in his career. After coming over from Philadelphia on a two-year deal worth $3.95 million in 2013 (one of Telesco’s best bargain signings), Telesco re-signed him to a four-year contract worth $28 million with $13 million guaranteed. Like Franklin, Dunlap hasn’t played since week 3 in Minnesota when he suffered a concussion—the fourth of his career. He was a must re-sign this past offseason but the bottom line is, he’s 30, and a history with concussions doesn’t bode well for a long future in the NFL. He’s unlikely to play in Green Bay (don’t be surprised if he’s done for the rest of the season).
Eric Weddle (S) – Weddle is in the final year of his current deal (one that at one point made him the highest paid safety in the league) and Telesco will likely not re-sign his All-Pro safety despite Weddle’s desire to remain a Charger. But, the question remains, should he sign Weddle to a new contract (assuming Weddle would hold no bad blood)? It will have to be a big one, and so far, Telesco has only hit on Rivers. But, what if Weddle walks and does well wherever he lands? Consider it as big a miss as any compared to his current big money contracts. Remember the last time the Chargers let an All-Pro safety walk? His name was Rodney Harrison, and he went on to win two Super Bowls. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
Oh, the life of a general manger…
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
How would you rank Telesco’s big money contracts? Let us know in the comments below.