SAN DIEGO – The Chargers added a top punt returner and a versatile receiver Thursday by agreeing to a three-year contract with Eddie Royal.
“The city alone is a great place to be. Great organization from the top to the bottom,” said Royal on why he chose San Diego over other suitors. “The coaches are top-notch. I’ve been a fan of Norv for a long time and Philip (Rivers) is a Pro Bowl quarterback. All of those are things that I looked at and it’s hard to pass up this opportunity.”
The fifth-year receiver caught 91 passes for 980 yards as a rookie in ’08 with the Denver Broncos and has averaged 38 catches for 376 yards since, numbers skewed a bit by Denver’s run-heavy offense last season.
A shifty 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Royal averages 11.9 yards per punt return for his career, third in the NFL in that span behind Julian Edelman and Devin Hester. Royal’s 16.2 yards per punt return last season tied him with Hester for the league’s best mark, but his 12 returns fell short of the minimum requirement of 20 to qualify.
Royal ate lunch with Rivers on Thursday and the receiver said the conversation confirmed what he already thought about his quarterback.
“He’s a great person. I knew that before, but it just confirmed it meeting with him and having lunch with him,” Royal said.
“He’s a competitor. That’s what you see on the other side when I was looking at him. You can tell how feisty he is and how bad he wants to win. And you want to see that from your quarterback, a guy that’s going to compete and not back down from anybody.”
Royal said he’ll leave his role to the coaches, but he enjoys being a punt returner and also has experience in the slot.
Royal is the second receiver to sign in San Diego this week.
Royal’s presence helps solidify San Diego’s receiving corps.
“They’re playmakers,” Royal said of the other receivers. “They’ve got good size on them. They can jump up and get the ball and make plays for Philip.”
The former Denver receiver returned a punt 71 yards and a kickoff 93 yards, both for touchdowns, against San Diego in 2009, a 34-23 win for the Broncos.
“It’s good for me to stay in the division because I’m familiar with the stadiums and the people I’m playing against,” Royal said.
“It’s going to be an adjustment playing on the other side, but I’m excited about it. San Diego’s always been a tough team to play. They’ve always been tough to beat. So it’s good to be on the right side.”