Chargers bolster offensive line but can’t land Tom Brady
The day the Chargers made a significant addition to their offense instead will be remembered as the day they didn’t add Tom Brady.
By agreeing to a three-year, $30-million deal with Bryan Bulaga, the team took a clear step up at tackle.
But the Chargers, just a short time later, learned they were out of the running for Brady, the veteran quarterback and six-time Super Bowl winner who will sign with Tampa Bay.
So the search for Philip Rivers’ successor continues. Rivers has started each of the past 235 games the franchise has played, starting in 2006. He and the Chargers mutually decided to part ways last month.
On Tuesday, Rivers agreed to a one-year, $25-million deal with Indianapolis.
The Chargers for now have veteran Tyrod Taylor as their starter, with Easton Stick, a fifth-round draft pick a year ago, also on the roster.
The Chargers placed a second-round tender on cornerback Michael Davis and exclusive-rights tenders on defensive end Isaac Rochell and offensive tackle Trent Scott.
Taylor, 30, backed up Rivers last season but started for three years in Buffalo and has been publicly endorsed by coach Anthony Lynn and general manger Tom Telesco.
With Brady heading to Florida, the Chargers are left to consider other potential candidates.
That group grew by one significant name Tuesday when Carolina announced that Cam Newton had been granted permission to seek a trade. Two other veterans — Andy Dalton and Nick Foles — also are known to be available.
The Chargers could stick with Taylor and draft a quarterback they believe might be their long-term solution at the position. They have the No. 6 overall pick, a spot where Justin Herbert of Oregon and Jordan Love of Utah State figure to be options.
Though it likely would require moving up in the draft order — a price Telesco might be reluctant to pay — the Chargers could target Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama.
Newton, who turns 31 this spring, continues to rehabilitate from a foot surgery he underwent in December. He appeared in only two games last season.
Adding Newton for any team could be complicated given the travel restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Any deal would be contingent on him first passing all necessary medical tests.
Newton was the NFL most valuable player in the 2015 season when he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, a 24-10 loss to Denver. Carolina has been to the playoffs only once since and lost in the NFC wild-card round.
Along with missing 14 games last season because of his Lisfranc injury, Newton was out for the final two games in 2018 after hurting his shoulder, another injury that required surgery.
His departure from the Panthers turned thorny Tuesday. After the team announced it had granted him permission to find a trade partner, Newton explained on social media that it was Carolina’s decision for him to move on.
“Stop with the word play,” he wrote. “I never asked for it…Please do not try and play me or manipulate the narrative and act like I wanted this. You forced me into this.”
Whoever plays quarterback for the Chargers in 2020, he will be doing so behind a rebuilt offensive line, including Bulaga, a starter at right tackle for nine seasons in Green Bay.
He will bolster an offensive front that was inconsistent in 2019. Those struggles helped lead to a turnover-filled season for Rivers.
Telesco began the overhaul two weeks ago by trading with Carolina for five-time Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner, giving up starting left tackle Russell Okung. The Chargers also are hoping center Mike Pouncey, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, will be able to return after having neck surgery that ended his 2019 season after five games.
Sam Tevi started 14 games at right tackle last year in his third NFL season. He as a sixth-round draft pick in 2017. Trent Scott, a former undrafted free agent out of Grambling State, started the other two games when Tevi was out with a knee injury.
Bulaga, who turns 31 on Saturday, has started 111 of 115 career games. He missed all of the 2013 season after suffering a knee injury. He started all 16 games for the Packers last season, matching a career best also achieved in 2016.
Bulaga will be reunited with James Campen, a former longtime Packers assistant the Chargers hired this offseason to be their offensive line coach.
The Chargers did suffer a blow on offense and, particularly, special teams Tuesday when free-agent fullback Derek Watt agreed to sign with Pittsburgh. A sixth-round pick in 2016, Watt led the Chargers in special-teams tackles with 16 last season. He also scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard run against Jacksonville in December.
The Saints and record-setting quarterback Drew Brees have agreed on a two-year, $50-million contract, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced.
Watt’s performance earned Pro Bowl recognition as he was named a first alternate on special teams and second alternate at fullback.
With the Steelers, he will join his younger brother, T.J., who is an All-Pro outside linebacker.
Also Tuesday, former Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis agreed to a deal with Washington. Davis, who led the Chargers in tackles last season, was released last week in a move to open salary cap space.
The Chargers placed a second-round tender on restricted free-agent cornerback Michael Davis and exclusive-rights tenders on Scott and defensive end Isaac Rochell.
Davis started all 12 games in which he appeared last season, finishing with 39 tackles and two interceptions. Initially signed as an undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young, Davis is entering his fourth season.
Rochell was a seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft. He has appeared in 35 career games with three starts.
In his two NFL seasons, Scott has played in 25 games with 10 starts, nine of which came last year as the Chargers were thinned by injury up front.
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