AFC West: Tra Thomas

Around the AFC West

July, 26, 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs have signed veteran offensive lineman Tony Ugoh, a second-round pick of the Colts in 2007. He has 28 starts in five NFL seasons. If he makes the team, it will be in a reserve role.

In other AFC West news:

New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie told the Oakland Tribune the Raiders “have the makings of a playoff team.” Again, the key is health for this talented team that lacks depth.

Former Oakland linebacker Darryl Blackstock has signed with Baltimore.

San Diego has released tackle Tra Thomas from its reserve/retired list. He never played a game for the Chargers.

Rachel Nichols will work from the sidelines during the Chargers at Oakland game in a Week 1 "Monday Night Football” doubleheader on ESPN on Sept. 10.
Don’t expect the retirement of tackle Tra Thomas to kick start the Marcus McNeill talks in San Diego.

Yes, Thomas was brought in June as insurance for McNeill’s holdout. So, Thomas’ retirement does end that thought. However, Thomas was trailing behind Brandyn Dombrowski in the race to replace McNeill. So, this loss isn’t devastating. Plus, young Tyrone Green has looked promising at left tackle.

Of course, the Chargers will be in the best shape if McNeill ends his holdout. But that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Despite meeting with San Diego general manager A.J. Smith this week, McNeill is not close to returning.

Smith will likely look at the waiver wire in the next couple of weeks for more depth at the position as he waits out McNeill. The team could also pursue a trade for veteran help as well.

Tra Thomas has knee surgery

August, 3, 2010
SAN DIEGO -- Random notes from San Diego after a productive three-day stay at Chargers’ camp:

Left tackle Tra Thomas had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean up a minor issue. The team expects him out 7-10 days.

While the issue is minor, it gives Brandyn Dombrowski even a better chance of being the team’s left tackle if Marcus McNeill’s holdout extends into the regular season. Thomas was signed this summer as insurance, but Dombrowski has looked good.

Rookie linebacker Donald Butler was carted off with an ankle injury. It is not known how serious it is. The team hopes he can help on special teams as a rookie.
  • The Chargers practiced red-zone drills Tuesday evening. Quarterback Philip Rivers continued to have as brilliant camp. He connected on some beautiful plays with tight end Antonio Gates and receiver Buster Davis and Malcom Floyd. Monday, San Diego coach Norv Turner said Floyd makes a spectacular catch every day. Tuesday’s edition was a brilliant catch in the corner of the end zone.
  • Rookie running back Ryan Mathews ran hard in red-zone drills. After signing Sunday, he does not look behind in any way.
  • Every time I look, safety Steve Gregory seems to make a big play. He is big part of the team’s nickel and dime packages. NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 10

SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers, with the benefit of solid protection, dropped back, scanned the field and let loose with what is very likely the NFL’s prettiest deep ball.

Galloping down the right sideline, Malcom Floyd skied high in double coverage and brought down a spectacular catch, breaking away from coverage and reaching the end zone. A large training camp crowd erupted. It was just another big play from the explosive San Diego Chargers offense during this camp.

The Chargers are not spending the early days of camp worrying about who isn't in attendance and how are they going to survive without them. Instead, the Chargers are acting like a team preparing for a Super Bowl run with the players who are in camp.

“We’re going every day and we’re going hard,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "Sure, we’d like everyone here, but they aren’t here and we feel good with what the guys who are here are doing. There is a calmness here.”

The Chargers could be excused if there was a sense of panic at camp. They are practicing without Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, left tackle Marcus McNeill and linebacker Shawne Merriman, all of whom are holding out. Jackson and McNeill are expected to hold out well into the season. Merriman’s status is less clear.

The attitude in San Diego is not one of a season that is about to be lost. Training camp is being used as a time to get everyone ready for a long run.

“I’m not going to say we don’t miss those guys, because we do,” Rivers said. “I miss throwing the ball to Vincent and I miss standing on the sidelines jawing with Marcus. Those are important guys. But at the same time, we are moving forward. We feel very comfortable with the guys who are here. We’re getting a lot done.”


[+] EnlargeDavis
Robert Benson/US PresswireBuster Davis is getting increased time on the field with Vincent Jackson holding out.
1. Do the Chargers have enough depth to prepare effectively without their veteran holdouts? It is only the first week, but there appears to be little doubt San Diego will leave training camp feeling good about the positions where players are holding out.

The key is San Diego’s tremendous depth. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith may get some grief for not giving in and signing the holdout veterans, but he also has his team in position to survive the losses. San Diego is deep at many key positions. Smith has been careful to mix proven veteran talent with intriguing young prospects.

Last year, the Chargers lost defensive tackle Jamal Williams for the entire season and center Nick Hardwick for virtually the entire regular season in Week 1. The Chargers plugged in people and went 13-3 in the regular season.

“We’ve been through this before in a lot of ways,” Turner said. “We feel good with the young players here.”

Jackson is being replaced by Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis, both of whom are having terrific camps. McNeill is being replaced by Brandyn Dombrowski. He was a valuable injury replacement at guard and right tackle last season. There is also veteran Tra Thomas, who can help as well. Merriman is being replaced by 2009 first-round pick Larry English, who was drafted to replace Merriman in case he departed through free agency. English appears to have made great strides this offseason after a lackluster rookie season.

2. Will Ryan Mathews be up for the challenge of replacing a legend? This is a landmark time in Chargers history. The team is moving away from the LaDainian Tomlinson era. He was cut in February after nine seasons in San Diego. Tomlinson had a Hall of Fame career, but he faltered the past two seasons.

While Tomlinson is still a respected figure in San Diego, it is clear that the Chargers are relieved to move on and help ignite the run game, which ranked No. 31 in the NFL last season.

It’s Mathews’ job in training camp to make the team feel comfortable that he is up to the task of bringing balance back to San Diego’s offense. Mathews was the No. 12 overall pick and people in the organization have been raving about him.

“He does not seem affected by having to replace LaDainian,” Rivers said. “He’s very humble and very confident. It doesn’t seem too big for him. We expect a very productive training camp from him.”

[+] EnlargeAntoine Cason
Rich Kane/Icon SMIAntoine Cason is hoping to make people forget about Antonio Cromartie.
3. Is Antoine Cason the answer at right cornerback? While Antonio Cromartie is far from the legacy player Tomlinson was, he is a high-profile departure. He was traded to the Jets on the first day of the trading season. He is being replaced by Cason, San Diego’s first-round pick in 2008.

The Chargers are excited about the change. Cromartie had 10 interceptions in 2007, but he had a total of five in the next two seasons. Cromartie made many mental mistakes, he was poor against the run and he had some off-field concerns.

The Chargers believe they will be in better shape with Cason, who has been lauded for his intelligence and preparation. Cromartie may be a big name, but the Chargers believe Cason will continue to prove in camp that Cromartie isn’t a big loss.


You would think that the Chargers would be nervous about not having Jackson, McNeill and Merriman in camp. It doesn’t seem like they miss them at all. Practices have been crisp and dynamic. Players are very confident and replacements for each absent player don’t appear to be intimidated at all. The Chargers will surely miss these guys on the field if it gets to that point, but there is no wallowing in the early stages of camp. This team means business.


Merriman needs to be in camp. He is holding out because he wants assurances that the Chargers won’t trade him. He has been upset that he was the subject of trade talk during the past year. The Chargers won’t give him those assurances, but Smith has said he has no current plans to deal Merriman. Merriman really has no leverage here. We all know he’s going to play this year. This is a huge season for the rest of his career. He has to prove he can be a dominant pass-rusher again as he enters the final year of his contract. He is just wasting time by not being at camp.

[+] EnlargeSiler
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireThe Chargers have high expectations for linebacker Brandon Siler.

  • Quietly, many in San Diego think the offensive line is ready for a big season. The unit may be motivated by critical comments made by Tomlinson. Among his many excuses for his dramatic lack of production last season was the offensive line play. The line isn’t saying anything about it, but the word is this group is very inspired.
  • The Chargers are excited about inside linebacker Brandon Siler. He came on strong last season and should have a big role on the defense this season.
  • Look out for linebacker Antwan Applewhite. He was hurt last year, but the Chargers think he could be a secret weapon. He is a special-teams ace and could play a role as a pass-rusher. He is a fierce player.
  • Turner is excited to have veteran tight end Randy McMichael. The two were together in Miami in 2002-03 and Turner thinks the veteran can help. Known as a good receiver, McMichael is an underrated blocker, Turner said. The Chargers are also high on backup tight end Kris Wilson.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Jeremy Williams from Tulane has had a good early camp and is the favorite to be the No. 5 receiver.
  • While losing Rivers would be devastating, the Chargers have one of the best backups in the NFL in Billy Volek. The guy is a pro and has looked sharp.
  • Expect big fullback Mike Tolbert to give San Diego a boost in the short-yardage game. The 5-foot-9, 243-pound Tolbert is a load.
  • The Chargers were thrilled with the play of right guard Louis Vasquez last season as a rookie. The word is Vasquez is continuing to make strides and the Chargers think they have a real find.

Chargers expect long holdouts

July, 28, 2010
Two days before the San Diego Chargers begin their full-fledged training camp when the veterans join rookies for practices, general manager A.J. Smith is operating under the assumption that the team will be without the services of, at least, two of his top players.

And it may last awhile.

Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill are expected to hold out for an extended period. Linebacker Shawne Merriman could also hold out, but he is more likely to attend most of training camp.

Speaking about McNeill and Jackson, Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday that he has been told that the two players will be “out for a considerable amount of time.”

Smith said he, at this point, is expecting that both McNeill and Jackson will hold out for the first 10 games of the regular season and then report to accrue an NFL season. Smith admits he is disappointed that both players are likely to hold out for the long-term. Still, Smith said because of the CBA uncertainty the Chargers are reluctant to give out long-term deals.

“I believe they are preparing to withhold their services,” Smith said. “We’re preparing for that. If we get that back after 10 games, then we’ll deal with that. Getting two Pro Bowl-caliber players with six games to go and then potentially the postseason is not a bad thing.

“Whether they come back as starters, role players, or as injury replacements, that remains to be seen and will be up to (coach) Norv Turner … But six games is still a significant part of the season.”

Smith indicated that the Chargers aren’t necessarily standing pat, either. He said the waiver wire will be watched. Plus, Smith has a history of being an active trader. If he sees a situation to help the receiver and tackle positions while these two players are out, I’d bet he’d pursue it. Smith already brought in tackle Tra Thomas and slot receiver Josh Reed to improve the two positions.

Despite the situations, Smith said doesn’t plan to get upset at Jackson or McNeill even if the holdouts drag on.

“It’s their right,” Smith said. “There are other people in their shoes, who are playing, but it is their professional right. I’m not going to say they are bad guys. It’s their decision if they end up staying away.”

I think Smith is taking the right tact by assuming Jackson and McNeill aren’t coming back soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if Merriman shows up soon because his situation is different. Merriman has to play a full season to show he is fully recovered from a 2008 knee injury.

Meanwhile, the Chargers’ top pick Ryan Mathews remains unsigned. I get the indication that the talks could take some time, but there aren’t any major concerns that Mathews will stay away from camp for an extended period of time. The same can’t be said for McNeill and Jackson, and San Diego is preparing for the hold outs to last until the stretch run of the regular season.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

San Diego's Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson may stage contract holdouts. Is there a chance San Diego general manager A.J. Smith will cave in and give the two players new contracts to avoid the holdouts?

[+] EnlargeAJ Smith 100627
AP Photo/Denis PoroyExpect Chargers general manager A.J. Smith to play hardball with holdouts Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson.
Let’s get to the meat of this quickly. I don’t see any chance that Smith will give in to these two guys.

I think that is the big reason why there is such a dire feel here. I believe everyone involved realizes that Smith is ready to play hardball.

This is a man who doesn’t blink.

If we get to early September and McNeill, a standout left tackle, and Jackson, a Pro Bowl receiver, are still staying away, Smith will simply move forward.

Jackson is well aware that Smith is entrenched and knows if he does stay away from the team (which he plans to do) Smith will be ready for a fight.

There is little chance Smith will give McNeill and Jackson new contracts before training camp to avoid this mess. His stance: If these players don’t want to play for him, he doesn’t want them to play for him.

That’s why he signed Tra Thomas as insurance for a McNeill holdout and Josh Reed as insurance for a Jackson holdout. That’s why when McNeill and Jackson didn’t sign their restricted free-agency tenders by the deadline, Smith said things like “we lost two players today.” He acted as if McNeill and Smith left the league. And if they hold out, they might as well leave the league as far as Smith is concerned.

Smith is a calculated, smart man who is not going to be bullied. He is going to fight his fight.

So, if you think Smith will cave, think again. It won’t happen.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Can the Chargers still be a serious Super Bowl contender without Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill?

Earlier in this saga, I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. if he thought San Diego could make a deep playoff run without Jackson and McNeill. Williamson didn’t think so.

I agree that it would be tough. The AFC is stacked and any team that wants to make a serious run will need its full arsenal of players. Having McNeill and Jackson sitting on their couches on Sundays in the fall certainly won’t make San Diego a better team.

Still, if those two players really do hold out into November (the current expectation is that both McNeill and Jackson will hold out for the first 10 games of the season unless they unexpectedly get long-term deals), the Chargers will be tremendously challenged. But barring any major injuries, the team could still stay afloat and regroup for the stretch run.

San Diego (which added tackle Tra Thomas and reserve receiver Josh Reed as insurance for potential holdouts) is pretty loaded on offense. While Jackson is the team’s go-to receiver, quarterback Philip Rivers has plenty of options. He can lean on star tight end Antonio Gates and receivers Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee while Jackson is out. If Thomas is solid and he keeps Rivers upright, the Chargers can maintain. They won’t be as good as they would be with Jackson and McNeill, but, yes, they can survive.

San Diego plays only two teams (Arizona and New England) that made the playoffs in 2009 during the first 10 games of the season. Five of San Diego’s first 10 games are against teams that had losing records last season.

So, it’s manageable. Playing without Jackson and McNeill for the majority of the season is certainly not ideal, but it may not be devastating to San Diego, either.

You pick it responses

June, 18, 2010
We had a good race in this week’s “you pick it” competition.

However, the readers have decided the craziness in San Diego is the winner. Star left tackle Marcus McNeill and Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson didn’t sign their restricted free-agent tenders by this week’s deadline and the Chargers lowered their 2010 salaries. San Diego signed tackle Tra Thomas and receiver Josh Reed as insurance for the potential hold outs.

That story edged out Oakland signing defensive tackle John Henderson. The other candidate was Denver star linebacker Elvis Dumervil signing his restricted free-agency tender.

I agree with the readers about the San Diego angle. The Chargers will not be nearly as dangerous without these two players. This story has a long way to develop and many things can still happen, but this is big.

Below are some of your responses. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Joshua Crook from Milwaukee: As much as I think Oakland's signing of John Henderson is huge, (pun intended) the contract fallout in S.D. takes this week again.Without S.D.'s most valuable assets they will have a tough time in 2010. I'm sure these guys will eventually sign, but I am assured that they have polarized the locker room by now. If these players were practicing, the Chargers are on their way down. This could mark the beginning of the end for their title chances and I'm thrilled!

Jake from Phoenix: Though as a Raiders fan I'm excited about John Henderson's signing, the big story is the Chargers preparing to move on without VJack and McNeill. Jackson is likely the best receiver in the division, and may have been even when Marshall was still a Donkey.McNeill, though is the bigger story, IMO. Here's a legit LT stud who's started from the moment he set foot in the NFL. This guy lets your mouthy QB yap to his heart's content. Edge rushers like Elvis Dumerville, Tamba Hali, and Trevor Scott are hoping A.J. stays stubborn so they can motor around Tra Thomas and smack Phyllis Rivers in his mouth.With VJack and McNeill the Chargers are one of the top 3 teams in the league. Without them, they might not sniff the playoffs. A.J. Smith's hardline with two of his most important players could have a huge impact on the upcoming season, and his employment with the Chargers.

Tim H. from Berkeley, Calif.: The storyline of the week for the AFC West most certainly has to be the Raiders addition of DT John Henderson. Although the holdouts in SD can potentially benefit the entire division, I still see them as a playoff team without those two. The Raiders, on the other hand, are on the cusp of a wildcard birth or a 1st place finish in the division. We still lack ideal bodies on the offensive line, but with the addition of Henderson to fill out the front 4, Oakland's defense looks downright scary. Add him to the already growing list of superstars we are developing on defense, and I think it's a perfect fit. He brings veteran savy to a youthful defense with loads of potential. I predict a top 10 finish for Oakland's D this year. Autumn winds bringing a change...

James from Wilmington, N.C.: Even as a Raiders fan, I have to say that San Diego signing stopgaps for Jackson and McNeill to be the storyline this week. This seemed to be the year the stars aligned for a Chargers Superbowl and suddenly two important cogs of the well oiled SD offense threaten to hold out. I won't shed any tears, but I can only imagine how frustrating this is for Chargers fans

Kevin from Lebanon, Ore.: As a Raider's Fan, I love the John Henderson signing, it for a year and they don't pay him a ton. He could really benefit this team. However the story is the Chargers situation. I have said it before in this forum, but this time its over. The Chargers will most likely win the AFC west without Jackson and McNeil, but the Super Bowl dream just ended. I see Tra Thomas not playing the whole season, in which case Phillip Rivers blindside becomes a freeway. If Rivers gets hurt, then the team blames McNeil and Jackson and why not A.J. Smith also. I don't see any way that the Chargers make it to the Super Bowl, which will be a major failure for the season, and the consequences of all of these actions could internally tear the team apart. Oh and by the way, Thanks Chargers! Go Raiders!

Kenny D. from Phoenix., Ariz.: The Thomas/Reed signings are the big story. Salary issues have to boil over to the locker room. With experience and teamwork so important on the o-line and at WR, VJax and McNeill are not easily replaced. Even if they do come back, do they restore faith from their teammates? It's a big distraction for the Dolts - one that the Broncos, McD and, fortunately, Dumervil have been working to avoid

Spencer from Oakland: As a Raiders fan, you've got to love the signing of John Henderson. First, it's a 1 year deal in an uncapped year. Second, it's not like we're going to ask him to be an every down DT. He'll be a situational run stopper - essentially a big body to free up our ends and OLBs. If he's not working out well in training camp, he's easily expendable, but I've got a feeling this guy is going to make some plays for a defense that has been making the correct moves to shore up a notoriously poor run defense. This signing is a much better move than the alternative (a trade for Haynesworth).

Ryan X. Allred from Lynnwood, Wash.: Without a doubt the holdout of Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson, and the reaction of the Charges organization to this situation is the biggest story in the AFC West. The Charges were and still are the clear division favorites, but the loss of these two outstanding players has allowed the rest of the AFC West to close the gap some. The stubbornness of the Charges organization in these matters will be noteworthy in future player negotiations. This may be the beginning of the end of their reign atop the AFC West.

Nick from N.Y., N.Y.: Has to be Jackson and McNeill staying away from SD. These are two cornerstone players on a perennial contender. Jackson is arguably the most important player on that offense aside from Philip Rivers. Josh Reed isn't going to come in and be that type of receiver, and I don't think Malcolm Floyd has the ability Jackson has. McNeill protects the blind side of Rivers, and I don't expect Tra Thomas to be able to hold up in protection the way McNeill can. I think Smith is making a mistake in not negotiating with these guys. These aren't declining players on a rebuilding team. They are players in their prime on a team that has it's open postseason window right now.

Mike from Las Vegas: The story of the week is Doom signing his tender, even though I think the story with SD players holding out is a big deal, I still believe that Dumervil signing his contract is a good leap of faith, with Josh McDaniels. Josh "The Kid" McDaniels is one of the most unpredictable coaches in the league, so only time will tell if Elvis gets his new contract, or is just playing a year for dirt cheap.

Alvaro from Rosarito Beach: It's all about the Chargers and the Vincent Jackson-Marcus Mcneill situation. AJ Smith can say what he wants, but there is a reason why San Diego moved from being LT's team to River's team, and it was the air atack. Now, after doing that, you're not gonna assure that Phillip gets his weapon and protection??Look, you can say that AJ is a tough negotiator and what not, but really, after a couple of season failures, we have to begin to question just how much AJ is compromise to winning and how much is he compromise to being right.A lot has being said about the teams inhability to win or they're window of oportunity closing, but for me, after a couple of decision made, i think that the person in the hot seat, is AJ Smith.

Tom from Dayton, Ore.: Easily San Diego preparing to move on w/out Jackson and McNiel. Those are 2 studs and w/out them San Diego goes from a dynamic offense to an average offense w/ a great QB/TE. San Diego will have to rely more on the run game and even though good things are expected from Mathews he still has to produce on the field not on paper. As a Raiders fan I sure hope A.J. Smith, Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNiel all stand their ground and we don't see them on the field 'til week 10.

Travis from Witchita, Kan.: The storyline of the week has to be the Chargers' Movement. I think that to a certain degree you have to respect AJ Smith, however, without Jackson or McNeill I think this team is severely handicapped. Without those two players this team goes from Superbowl Contender to Playoff hopeful.

Big Mike fromPrairie View, Texas: Henderson to the raiders is huge. Him an Tommy Kelly give me nostalgic feelings for the days of Henderson and Stroud in Jacksonville. That front seven could be very nasty for Mathews, Moreno, and Charles this year. I would have liked to see them acquire Henderson when they sent Morrison though.

Joe from San Francisco: The Raiders signing John Henderson has to be the storyline of the week. The Raiders continue to have a great off season. Bringing in a veteran like Henderson will help the young guys to develop and it will really help the defense stop the run. They have not gone out and over spent for guys but have brought in quality players that will help the team. This is a GREAT move!!!
The candidates:

Chargers movement: San Diego signs tackle Tra Thomas and receiver Josh Reed as insurance in case Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson hold out, as expected.

Dumervil signs tender: Denver star linebacker Elvis Dumervil signs his restricted free-agent tender. He is now under contract for 2010.

Oakland signs Henderson: The Raiders sign former Jacksonville standout defensive lineman John Henderson. He should help with stopping the run.

Choose your story of the week and hit my mailbag with your thoughts. I will post some of your responses later in the week.
Two days after the San Diego Chargers obtained some insurance at left tackle, they did the same at receiver.

It’s no coincidence.

The Chargers are preparing for potential holdouts by left tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson and sending the message that they will move on. After signing tackle Tra Thomas on Wednesday, San Diego inked former Buffalo receiver Josh Reed.

Reed gives San Diego depth whether Jackson reports or not. Thomas will likely be the starter if McNeill stays away. Both Jackson and McNeill are restricted free agents who are expected to hold out if they are not given long-term deals. San Diego is not prepared to give either player a new contract at this point.

The signings of Thomas and Reed are smart because the Chargers realize they have to be proactive. They identified the two available players they most think will help if their starters don’t show and they signed them.

Still, don’t expect too much from Reed. He is a depth guy and is probably not a better option than No. 3 receiver Legedu Naanee, who would likely take Jackson’s spot in the lineup if Jackson holds out. Reed, a second-round draft pick in 2002, has 311 career catches for 3,575 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Reed can help San Diego, but just don’t expect him to be a quality starter in Jackson’s absence.
Tra Thomas worked with the first-team offense in San Diego during theChargers’ organized team activities workout. Thomas, 36, signed with the Chargers on Wednesday.

That’s why he was brought in for. Thomas is the starter at left tackle and the team's insurance policy as long as Marcus McNeill stays away.

Mel Kiper breaks down the AFC West in this Insider piece on Insider. Kiper has some interesting thoughts on what rookies he thinks will help their teams.

The Kansas City Star describes safety Jarred Page’s chances of making the Chiefs’ roster as “remote at best.” He is a restricted free agent, who has not signed his tender. He started five games in 2009. Kansas City drafted safety Eric Berry with the No. 5 overall pick this spring.

Former San Diego defensive lineman Leonardo Carson has been given a long prison sentence for drug charges.

San Diego GM ready to move on

June, 10, 2010
In an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith made it clear that veteran left tackle Tra Thomas was signed Wednesday because of the possible holdout by standout left tackle Marcus McNeill.

Smith also told the newspaper the team could look for a veteran receiver because of the possible holdout by Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson. Both McNeill and Jackson are expected to hold out if they don’t get long-term deals. The team is not currently prepared to give either player a new contract.

Smith made it clear he is ready to call Jackson and McNeill’s bluff.

“It’s my understanding we have lost the services of both Marcus and Vincent for a considerable length of time,” Smith told the newspaper. “I certainly am taking them at their word. Therefore, I felt it was in our best interest to act quickly and secure a veteran left tackle. Tra is a talented player that brings us a wealth of starting experience. He will be added to the mix, and we will go from there.

“It is disappointing, for sure. Marcus, Vincent and their agents have made their business decision. It is their right to do so. We will adjust, move on and get ready for the upcoming season.”

This is vintage Smith. He never shows any sign of weakness and he always plays it cool. That’s why a potential holdout by either player could be very dangerous. Smith will not surrender.

Meanwhile, I’m sure San Diego fans are going to wonder if that veteran receiver the team could add could end up being Terrell Owens. I think the Jackson situation would have to completely crumble before Smith considered that option. It’s just not very likely.

Meanwhile, K.C. Joyner takes a look at what it would mean for San Diego to play without Jackson in an Insider piece on
With possible holdouts by San Diego offensive stars Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill on the horizon, I caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to get his view of the situation.

Predictably, the astute Williamson believes if Jackson, a Pro Bowl receiver, and McNeill, a standout left tackle, stay away from the Chargers well into the regular season, it will severely hamper the team’s Super Bowl dreams.

“It would be crippling," Williamson said. "I still think the Chargers would have enough to win the AFC West, but they wouldn’t be a strong Super Bowl contender without these two guys. It’s early and a lot can happen, but if these two guys actually bypass their paychecks, the Chargers’ offense will be greatly affected.”

Williamson thinks Jackson is the team’s best receiving option.

“Tight end Antonio Gates is close, but Jackson is a stud," Williamson said. "He’s the go-to guy. Malcom Floyd is a good No.2, but Legedu Naanee would be a starter with Jackson out and I like Naanee as a No. 3 at best. They would have to hope Buster Davis can finally stay healthy and show something. But that may be a lot to ask for a guy who has never put it together.”

Williamson thinks options such as Tra Thomas (who is expected to sign Wednesday) and backup Brandyn Dombrowski would severely hamper the Chargers’ line.

"McNeill is a strong point on a line that isn’t that strong," Williamson said. "San Diego would suffer without him.”

Still, Williamson believes San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers could succeed without his blindside protector and his top receiver.

“Rivers is one of those rare guys. He makes people around him better," Williamson said. "He gets rid of the ball quickly and he doesn’t take many sacks. He finds his receivers fast. He’d be relying on Gates a lot, but he could get away with it. ... Still, overall, the Chargers are weaker without those two guys.”
With a potential holdout by standout left tackle Marcus McNeill looming, the Chargers are making backup plans.

The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the team is planning to sign veteran Tra Thomas on Wednesday. He is in San Diego taking a physical.

Update: Thomas has signed with San Diego.

Thomas is 36. He started three games in Jacksonville last season. He was a consistent starter for 11 seasons in Philadelphia.

Thomas is no longer a high-level player, but he could help the team if McNeill sits out. The only other left tackle possibility on the roster is Brandyn Dombrowski, but he is not a natural left tackle.

The team is preparing for a McNeill holdout. The Chargers are expected to lower his restricted free-agent tender next Tuesday. McNeill is expected to hold out if he doesn’t get a long-term deal. The Chargers are not prepared to give him a new deal yet.

Thomas’ arrival shows the Chargers are making plans for life without McNeill.

Evening news and notes

February, 11, 2010
For the second straight year, Denver will not raise ticket prices.

In fact, one area at the stadium will be reduced by 21 percent.

“We recognize and understand the economic challenges facing our fans,” Broncos Senior Vice President of Business Development Mac Freeman said in a statement released by the team. “Their support for the Broncos has remained overwhelming despite an uncertain financial climate. We appreciate their loyalty and want to make sure they can continue to share in the excitement of our team during the 2010 season.”
  • Keep an eye on Oakland to see if it shows interest in left tackle Tra Thomas. Although he was cut by Jacksonville on Thursday, and is past his prime, he can still help a team. Oakland will be looking for tackle help this offseason.
  • Denver hired Craig Aukerman as a defensive assistant. Aukerman, 33, spent last season as the linebackers coach at Kent State. This is his first season in the NFL.