As he does each season, General Manager Tom Telesco took to the podium to deliver what amounts to a state of the team address.
Here are some highlights from what he had to say:
The future Hall of Famer just wrapped up his 15th NFL season at the age of 37. It was also the final year of a two-year contract he inked in 2016. Thus, questions swirl around Antonio Gates' future as he intimated he isn't inclined to hang up his cleats just yet. Telesco addressed the possibility of bringing number 85 back in 2018:
"We'll probably let some time go a little bit now after the season's over, and then sit down with Antonio and just kind of talk with him, see what his thoughts are and what he's thinking, see what our thoughts are and what we're thinking. I don't have answer for that right now.
"But obviously he's one of the greatest Chargers of all-time. And to see a Hall of Famer this year really accept a secondary role, you don't see that very often, and still mentoring our young players on the practice field and still playing at a really good level. You saw that where we've got two games left in the season and we have to win two more games, and we really need him, he steps up and plays at the same level as he had before. He's a special, special guy."
The Hope for Whiz, Gus and Stewart
Head Coach Anthony Lynn on Monday said the hope is to bring back all three coordinators for next season. Telesco admitted he has the same hope, stating that is the team's plan heading into the offseason. He also revealed which coach he knows for sure won't return in 2018:
"You'd love to keep continuity with players and coaches to be honest with you – it's hard to do in this league. With our coaching staff, we'd love to keep all three coordinators, that's what we plan to do. We are going to lose one coach with James Cregg, he's going to go to LSU as their offensive line coach. It's hard to keep your exact same staff every year, especially nowadays, but that's our plan."
The Biggest Regret of 2017
Telesco didn't mince words when it came to what he regrets most about last season. In fact, it's probably exactly what you would imagine:
"Obviously our kicking game was not NFL quality this year. One of my biggest regrets this year (is) I did not do a good enough job addressing that position. I kind of put our head coach, Anthony, in a tough position as far as managing the football game. So, it happens. I'm not really happy about it. We'll assess where we were and we'll get it fixed. I'm very confident we'll be able to get that fixed, but obviously that just had to get better this year. I did not do a good enough job there. But we'll get that addressed."
A Timeline for Rivers?
Philip Rivers obviously can't play forever. Still, after another masterful season, Telesco said he has no timeline on how long he expects number 17 to stay under center:
"I haven't really had a timeline on him, per se. At that position, because it is so important, you're always looking for who that next guy will be, so you're always prepared to do that if the situation arises. Philip is as well prepared as anybody. He's still playing at a high level. I don't really have a timeline for him, but I know he played really well for us this year, and I expect him to come back and do the same thing next year."
Time to Draft a Quarterback?
It's a question Telesco has been asked at every single one of his post-season press conference – is the team looking to draft a quarterback of the future. Once again, Telesco gave the same exact answer, and for good reason:
"It's been a priority every year to have the next guy. Kellen is the backup, and he's older as well, so you have to have a future plan. And you just never know when that opportunity is going to be there. So you just can't sit back and wait and then decide when you're going into one year and say, 'You know what, this year we're going draft a quarterback,' because it may not line up for you. You don't go into a draft saying we're going draft a QB, a RB and a WR. You never know how it's going to play out. So we'll be prepared whatever year it is. If the right guy is there at the right spot, then we'll do it. Because as well as Philip is playing, we know he's not going be here for 10 more years. We hope he'll be around for a good amount of years, but we have to have a plan for the future. That's part of our job."
The Cardale Jones Factor
In the same vein, the Bolts traded a 2018 seventh-round pick in July to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for QB Cardale Jones. Is it possible Jones could be that quarterback of the future?
"We saw some great tools this year. He made two or throws each practice that really opened your eyes. And now we'll have the full off-season of him developing in the offense and us getting a good look at him in training camp and the preseason. He certainly has the skills to do it, which is one of the reasons why we brought him in."
Lamp on Track
The Chargers suffered a significant setback in training camp when second-round guard Forrest Lamp was lost for the year with an ACL injury. The good news is since it happened early, the team is hopeful Lamp will return during OTAs:
"Everything is on target. Hopefully at some point in OTAs he'll work back in. The positive about him getting hurt early is he'll be on the field early. He got hurt in August, so hopefully in OTAs he'll be back on track."
The Salary Cap Situation
Every team has holes it needs to fill, players they want to re-sign and free agents to target. To that end, Telesco was asked what the team's salary cap looks like in relation to what he hopes to accomplish:
"When you look at the cap number, a lot of times people think, 'Well, that's how much they can spend on free agents.' That's not always the case. You have your restricted free agent tenders which will take up some spots. Obviously you have to have a budget for next year's injured reserve. Any extensions you do are going to take up space, but we think we have enough space to do what we need to do."
Extensions for Gordon and Hayward?
The general manager was asked if the team would be interested in signing Melvin Gordon and Casey Hayward to extensions with their contracts set to expire following the 2018 campaign. Telesco explained how those are the types of discussions the team will have in the coming months:
"Those are the things you look at this offseason. It's not just free agents. When you look at what you have cap-space wise, you also take into account any extensions you want to do, so those are discussions we'll have between now and March."
What the Near Future Holds
Just because the season has come to an end doesn't mean the work stops. In fact, Telesco outlined just how busy the next couple months will be leading into free agency:
"I guess probably threefold: One, still assessing our current team, getting together with the coaches… and some of them, we've got to take a little bit of time off. Not time off, but step away and not do some evaluations right away, right after the season is over, because I know (for) the coaches, it's a long year. It's a grind. We're all upset we didn't make the playoffs. Take a step back, give it a couple of days, come back, look at our players, kind of assess what they did well, what they didn't, some strengths and weaknesses, some needs for next year, and in this month, we also have some college All-Star games (where we'll) do some college draft work. Scouts will be at different All-Star games. I'm trying to get to a couple as well. And then with the pro scouts, as far as free agency, assessing that these are some of our needs, what's out there, how does it line up with our salary cap, those sorts of things. So January is a pretty big planning month except for the college work, that's a little more scouting. And then February is really a lot of the same thing, starting again in March."