Thursday, February 6, 2014
Chargers position outlook: Wide receiver
By Eric D. Williams
SAN DIEGO -- Keenan Allen put together one of the best seasons by a rookie receiver in recent memory. And Eddie Royal had a productive year as a slot receiver. But the San Diego Chargers still have some holes to fill.
The good: Allen set a team rookie record with 1,046 receiving yards and 71 catches. He also tied a team high for touchdown catches with Royal with eight. Allen became just the fifth NFL rookie since 2000 to go over 1,000 yards. Royal caught a career-high eight touchdown passes, finishing the season with 47 receptions for 631 yards.
The bad: The Chargers finished with just six passing plays of 40 yards or more, tied for No. 28 in the NFL. So creating more chunk plays could be viewed as an area that needs improvement. However, San Diego did finish with 60 passing plays of 20 or more yards, good enough for No. 7 in the league.
The money: Starters Allen and Vincent Brown are still in their rookie deals, so both are inexpensive compared to their production. Brown did a nice job of staying healthy, but can improve on his consistency and overall numbers, as he finished with 41 catches for 472 yards and a score. Brown will be a free agent after the 2014 season, so he should be properly motivated. Royal makes $4.5 million in base salary in 2014, so he could be a possible salary-cap casualty. But Royal gamely played with turf toe for most of the season, can return punts and still is a productive player. Royal turns 28 years old in May. Floyd is attempting to return from a serious neck injury, so his $2.75 million in base salary allocated for 2014 will have to be evaluated.
Draft priority: Necessary. The return of Floyd and Alexander from injury would provide depth and players who can stretch the field on the outside. But the Chargers should consider the healthy return of either player as a plus. Bringing back Ajirotutu in free agency makes some sense because of his reliability and production as a special-teams player. Bringing back Hawkins in free agency is another option behind Royal as a slot receiver. Tobais Palmer, a practice squad player signed to futures contract in January, gives San Diego yet another option in the slot and the return game. But the Chargers need a legitimate deep threat opposite Allen, and should find one in the draft.