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Chargers executed free agency game plan

The Sports Xchange
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The Chargers can finally exhale.

The demanding task of compiling a squad in record time is about complete. And by most accounts, the Chargers came out winners, especially with the unexpected development that wide receiver Malcom Floyd would return.

When free agency hit the Chargers had more than 20 unsigned players of various status to contend with. It was obvious everyone couldn't be brought back, but the Chargers retained most the players they targeted.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson is here because of the franchise tag. Other key players returning were right tackle Jeromey Clary, safety Eric Weddle, defensive end Jacques Cesaire and backup quarterback Billy Volek.

The Chargers, at the right price, would have loved for linebacker Kevin Burnett and running back Darren Sproles to remain. But the team's stringer of catches looks pretty good, especially when adding free-agent linebackers Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy.

"We had talked about what we were going to do a couple months prior to it happening," team president Dean Spanos said. "Nobody knew exactly how it was going to play out, but we knew we had to get a lot done in a short time frame. I clearly knew, in order of importance, what we had to get done. If it fell the right way, we believed that we could construct an excellent roster.

"I believe that's what happened. You see the signings we had, and we pretty much executed our plan well and gave us the ability to retain a bunch of our own players."

That said, all the comings and goings weren't positives.

The team nearly cleaned house at inside linebacker with Burnett, their leading tackler last year, veteran starter Stephen Cooper and a solid short-yardage player in Brandon Siler fleeing.

The addition of Spikes, coming off the fourth triple-digit tackling season of his 14-year career, softens the loss of the other inside guys. But the Chargers are banking on Donald Butler and Jonas Mouton to fill in the slack opposite Spikes.

The Rolling Stones told us long ago you can't always get what you want. But it seems, for the most part, the Chargers got what they need.

"With no offseason, the key was to keep continuity wherever possible," said Ed McGuire, the Chargers' contract negotiator. "We did that, which was big. Then we added some key pieces to that veteran core and assembled what I believe to be a quality roster. Our work is never done. We're always on the lookout for quality players."

Looking toward Thursday's preseason opener against the Seahawks, the Chargers' moves will be on display.

The Chargers, if nothing else, seem to have an advantage over teams forced to do an overhaul.

Instead the Chargers have the same head coach, same offensive and defensive schemes -- although defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is new -- and a hardy collection of integral players familiar with how the Chargers go about their business.

"We lost a couple of guys that contributed over the past few years, but it is nice and I think it helps you," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "And the guys that we added from other teams are guys that have a great deal of success. They are coming in and adding another dimension, not only on the field but in the locker room as well.

"I certainly feel good about the team we are going to be but we 0-0 and we got a lot of work to do and hopefully the confidence is there and the camaraderie will continue to grow."

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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