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Updated at 2:04 ET Wednesday, July 27
Since 2004, the Chargers have won a total of 76 games while dropping only 36, finished first in the AFC West five times and ended the year ranked in the top five of the NFL in points scored all seven years. Yet in that same time span, the Bolts have won a grand total of three playoff games compared to five losses, never even reaching the Super Bowl.
With that in mind, the team enters the 2011 season in "Win Now" mode. For too many years in San Diego, postseason failure has overshadowed regular-season success. Last season, despite having the league's No. 1 ranked offense and defense in terms of yards, the team finished 9-7 and on their couches come playoff time.
On Tuesday, the team took great steps towards correcting their 2010 problems by sticking with their "Win Now" theory in terms of free agency. GM A.J. Smith agreed to terms with four players, all over the age of 27: re-signing OT Jeromy Clary (27 years old) and TE Randy McMichael (32) while acquiring S Bob Sanders (30) and LB Takeo Spikes (34). All four should see plenty of playing time in 2011 and will be expected to thrive on both sides of the ball right away.
"All four players are veterans and have performed at an extremely high level," Chargers head coach Norv Turner said in a statement. "Obviously Jeromey has put a lot of work in with us to get to where he is and we're excited to have him back. The continuity of keeping the offensive line together is big.
"I think defensively you want to be as strong as you can be down the middle and with Spikes and then Sanders, you've got two strong personalities that bring a real aggressive presence to the defense."
Bringing back Clary was top priority for the team entering free agency, as he was one of the team's top linemen and a player the Chargers felt they couldn't afford to loose. McMichael isn't a vital cog, but he is a strong run-blocker, allowing starting TE Antonio Gates to thrive in his role as a downfield pass-catcher. Sanders' deal was a contract the team agreed to before the lockout; Tuesday's announcement of the signing was just a formality.
The surprise of the group was Spikes, who played the last four years for the 49ers. San Diego has three free-agent inside linebackers, and it was expected they'd try to bring back Kevin Burnett and also find a young player to man the middle of the 3-4 defense run by new coordinator Greg Manusky. But instead they opted to have Manusky, Spikes' former coach in San Francisco, call Spikes as soon as the league allowed on Tuesday morning to persuade him to head down the California coast. The choice paid off when the linebacker agreed to a four-year contract.
"It's going to be great playing for Coach Manusky again," Spikes said in the statement. "One of the intangibles that I bring is my leadership. Even though everybody is from different places across America, to me I feel like the great ones bring everybody together and believe in the same common goal, and that's to win a championship. That's why I'm in San Diego."
On Day Two of free agency, the big spending for the Chargers continued. FS Eric Weddle, who was the team's top priority entering the summer, agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal, making him the highest-paid safety in league history. Weddle is the kind of versatile defender the team loves, and they made sure he was going to be wearing blue and gold in 2011.
The signings aren't without risk. Sanders has missed a total of 39 games the past three seasons due to various injuries, while Spikes, a 13-year vet who's played in two Pro Bowls, has never played in the postseason. Weddle is a really good player, but $40 million is a lot to spend on a free safety. The team also is still trying to bring back WR Malcom Floyd, all while staying under the salary cap.
There are still moves to be made for the Chargers as they try to return to the playoffs and find some success once there. However, early on in free agency, the team made it clear they weren't waiting for anything.