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Adrian Phillips re-signs with Chargers; general manager Tom Telesco gets contract extension

Adrian Phillips re-signs with Chargers; general manager Tom Telesco gets contract extension
Chargers safety Adrian Phillips celebrates after intercepting a pass from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in a wild-card playoff game Jan. 6. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

On the day the two newest Chargers were formally introduced, the team also welcomed back a key returnee.

Safety Adrian Phillips agreed to a one-year contract following a season in which he emerged as a versatile weapon on defense and an all-pro on specials teams.

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General manager Tom Telesco has had a busy week, adding linebacker Thomas Davis and quarterback Tyrod Taylor and re-signing defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. The Chargers also confirmed Telesco had signed a multi-year extension.

He was hired in 2013 and signed a three-year extension before the 2015 season, a deal that was going to expire after the 2019 season. The team Telesco helped put together reached the AFC divisional round of the playoffs last season before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

Coach Anthony Lynn likes to call Phillips one of his “core guys,” recently noting that he believed the performance of such less-heralded players carried the Chargers into the 2018 postseason.

Undrafted out of Texas five years ago, Phillips was on and off the Chargers’ active roster his first two seasons. He was cut by the team eight times before finding stability in 2016, when he appeared in 14 games.

Last season, Phillips became a vital member of a defense that regularly went small and athletic by deploying numerous defensive backs. He finished with 94 tackles and was credited with nine passes defended.

In 2019, he will be joined on defense by Davis, who made his first official appearance as a Charger on Friday at an introductory news conference at the team’s practice facility.

Davis and backup quarterback Taylor signed this week as free agents from Carolina and Cleveland, respectively.

Both said they were drawn to the Chargers, in part, because of the team’s recent on-field success and potential for more in 2019.

“When you know, you just know,” Davis said. “I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me. It felt comfortable. It felt right.”

A 14-year veteran who had spent his entire career with the Panthers, Davis admitted his wife was a little hesitant when he said he wanted to join a team on the West Coast.

But he said he knew the Chargers offered him a legitimate chance to return to the Super Bowl. Davis and Carolina lost to Denver in that game at the end of the 2015 season.

“Fourteen years of never being able to enter free agency …” he said. “Once you have that opportunity, you feel like you can select a place where you can come in and make a Super Bowl run. You don’t turn it down.”

Davis, whose 36th birthday is next week, will play weak-side linebacker for the Chargers, the same position he had with the Panthers.

He called himself “one of the more athletic linebackers in this league,” promised he still has plenty left to offer on the field and said he plans on being “the ultimate teammate.”

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Davis was the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2014. Lynn called the veteran’s intangibles “off the charts.”

As for what Davis will mean on game day, Lynn was equally as emphatic.

“I love the way he comes downhill,” he said. “I love the way he gets off blocks. I think he can help our run defense tremendously.”

The signing of Taylor gives the Chargers a backup quarterback who has started 46 games and made the Pro Bowl in 2015. Taylor, 29, was a backup on the 2012 Baltimore team that won Super Bowl XLVII.

“You see they’re close,” Taylor said of the Chargers. “It’s a bunch of guys who play for one another. There’s not a bunch of selfish egos on this roster. I think that’s where you start as far as building a Super Bowl team.”

Taylor and Lynn know each other well, the two having spent two seasons together in Buffalo. That familiarity and the Chargers’ desire to upgrade behind starter Philip Rivers led to Taylor’s signing.

“I feel much more comfortable at that spot now knowing that, God forbid something happens, we know we can still move the football,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “At every position, you have to be ready to go if somebody gets hurt.”

Both Taylor and Davis signed for two years. Taylor’s deal is worth up to $11 million with $6 million guaranteed and Davis’ worth up to $10.5 million with $5.25 million guaranteed.

Before re-signing Phillips, the Chargers had slightly more than $14 million remaining in cap space.

With limited financial room, they have been less active than many teams in free agency and quieter than some fans might like.

“Just check our record at the end of the year, I guess,” Telesco said, when asked about the perception that the Chargers aren’t doing enough. “We’re not really judged by the offseason. We’re judged by how we play in the fall.

“I understand it, as a fan, when you see these names going off … it’s fun. It’s fun signing players. So I get that. But we’re just not judged on the offseason. Between now and opening day, things could change. You just never know.”

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