Bolts Notebook: A Promising Prelude

GM Tom Telesco (USA TODAY Sports)

The first wave of free agency is over and the words most pundits are using to describe the Chargers are "quiet" and "slow moving." The fact is San Diego has added seven players from other teams and those players share several unique traits that reveal GM Tom Telesco's plan for rebuilding the Chargers.

It is clear the Chargers are working on a budget. They have not signed a marquee free agent, the closest being former Jacksonville Jaguars CB Derek Cox, who signed for four years, $20 million. Cox cashed in because he brings value (12 INTs in 37 games) and fills a need (incumbents Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer were not brought back).

The rest of San Diego's additions came cheaper. Telesco identified players who fit the following criteria: 1) coming off a rookie contract; 2) possessing ample playing experience; and 3) boasting room for improvement.

Telesco let his starting guards -- Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green -- walk away. In their place he added Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger. Both players entered the NFL with high expectations -- Rinehart was a third-round pick, Ohrnberger a fourth-rounder -- and both have some playing time under their belts. Rinehart has started all 31 games in which he has played, while Ohrnberger started a couple games at guard and a couple more at center in 2012.

Both players signed one-year deals, giving Telesco a chance to see how they look at lightning bolts without jeopardizing future cap space.

King Dunlap got a two-year deal only because there are so many questions at offensive tackle. Jared Gaither and Jeromey Clary are both still on the roster, but neither feels secure in his standing there. The Chargers may wait until after the NFL Draft to decide their fates. Dunlap has the versatility to back up the injury-prone Gaither, push the inconsistent Clary or mentor the incoming rookie linemen.

The Chargers had Mike Harris and Kevin Haslam start games for them at tackle in 2012; the Dunlap addition ensures that won't happen again. And while Dunlap is not the elite tackle fans clamored for, he is a heck of an addition considering that: 1) the Bolts already have more than $10 million tied up in the offensive tackle position; and 2) Telesco plans to use the No. 11 overall pick to select another tackle.

Finally, Telesco added more depth by bringing in skill position players John Phillips, Danny Woodhead and Fozzy Whittaker. What is noteworthy is that Phillips and Woodhead are complementary players. They were not brought in to replace or even challenge Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews. They were added to work in tandem with the former Pro Bowlers, adding depth and versatility.

So what's Telesco doing? He is bridging the gap between the aging, underachieving roster he inherited and the young, dynamic roster he envisions. But instead of using veteran retreads as Band-Aids, he is using young players who are experienced enough to contribute right away yet have enough upside to play their way into larger roles going forward.

The team is getting younger, giving Mike McCoy a group that can grow together. And the team's salary cap is on the fast track back to respectability. So it is unfair to describe San Diego's offseason as "quiet" or "slow moving." Perhaps "a promising prelude" is a better description.



Are you impressed with Telesco's work thus far? Discuss in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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