The Chargers traded wide receiver Wes Chandler, a player about to lose his starting job, to the the San Francisco 49ers Wednesday in exchange for veteran offensive lineman Fred Quillan, a player who lost his starting job last season.
Chandler, an 11-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, is 31. Quillan, the starting center on the 49ers’ 1981 and 1984 Super Bowl champions, is 32.
“I think it’s for the good of the San Diego Chargers and for Wes Chandler,” Chandler said from his Florida home. “And it’s something we both can live with.”
The Chargers and Chandler agreed to part company last week. And the deal would have been made earlier if Quillan hadn’t been a free agent. The 49ers couldn’t trade him to the Chargers until they signed him to a new contract.
Quillan said he didn’t know much about the Chargers other than they started fast and “faded,” losing their last six games last season. But, he added, “with some luck and persistence they can be a contender.”
“We think we’ve made a trade that is beneficial to the Chargers and to Wes, and we’re pleased to be able to do both,” said Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers’ director of football operations.
Quillan can play guard or center and, according to Charger Coach Al Saunders, may play either of those positions with his new team.
“Our personnel people feel Fred Quillan is somebody who can come in and add depth and dimension,” Saunders said. “He will not necessarily be a backup. He’ll be provided an opportunity to make a contribution in an area where we’re young.”
The 49ers were looking for depth at the wide receiver position. Veteran Dwight Clark is expected to announce his retirement. That would leave the 49ers with only Jerry Rice and recently acquired Dokie Williams as established players at the position.
“He’s been a great player, and part of our game plan is to bring in veterans with a new lease on life,” 49ers Coach Bill Walsh said of Chandler.
Others who fit that description include former Chargers Fred Dean and Gary Johnson. Last year, the 49ers were unsuccessful in attempts to revive the careers of wide receivers Tony Hill and Johnny (Lam) Jones.
Chandler agreed to sit out the Chargers’ minicamp last week at the request of the team. They, in turn, promised to make an active effort to trade him.
Chandler had repeatedly said he would welcome a trade to the 49ers. “I can’t think of anything Wes would rather have than a chance to play for Bill Walsh in San Francisco,” said Bud Asher, Chandler’s agent. “I think he and Jerry Rice will be a super pairing.”
Walsh and Asher have been friends ever since both worked for the Cincinnati Bengals in the late ‘60s.
The Chargers decided Chandler was expendable when they used their first- and third-round draft picks in June to select wide receivers Anthony Miller and Quinn Early. Then, at the minicamp, Saunders made a special point of praising second-year wide receiver Jamie Holland as one of the team’s most improved players.
Quillan became expendable last year when the 49ers moved Randy Cross to center after replacing him at guard with Guy McIntyre. Quillan is an 11-year veteran who came to the 49ers as a seventh-round draft pick out of Oregon. He made the NFC Pro Bowl team in 1984 and 1985.
Chandler came to the Chargers in a trade from New Orleans in 1981. He has caught 555 passes in his NFL career. But his production dropped off in 1987 with only 39 catches. His best year was 1985, when he caught 67 passes for 1,199 yards and 10 touchdowns.
According to Walsh, both teams are protected in the trade by a provision that calls for compensation in the form of draft choices if either player fails to make the roster of his new team.