The San Diego Chargers released wide receiver Robert Meachem, whose signing in 2012 was a $14 million mistake by the A.J. Smith regime.
Meachem’s release Saturday, along with 10 others to get down to the 53-man limit, came two days after he sustained a concussion following a reception in a 41-6 loss to San Francisco in the exhibition finale.
Meachem was part of a costly, unproductive free-agent class in 2012, which was viewed as a desperate gamble by Smith to save his job as general manager. He and coach Norv Turner were fired a day after the Chargers finished last season at 7-9, their first losing record in 10 years and their third straight year out of the playoffs.
Meachem was given a four-year contract with $14 million guaranteed, including a $5 million salary this year.
Signed the same day Smith let Vincent Jackson leave as a free agent, Meachem caught only 14 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Meacham had been a forgotten man since dropping a potential touchdown pass in a 7-6 loss at Cleveland last season.
”It just didn’t work out, unfortunately,” said GM Tom Telesco, who put together his first 53-man roster. ”He’s a great kid, a great person. He did everything we asked. It just didn’t work out.”
Also cut were tackle Nick Becton, outside linebacker Frank Beltre, tight end Ben Cotton, cornerback Marcus Cromartie, defensive end Logan Harrell, running back Michael Hill, cornerback Josh Johnson, linebacker Thomas Keiser, center David Molk and tight end David Rolf.
Telesco has had to overhaul the roster after Smith’s many mistakes during the last several seasons took their toll on a team that won four straight AFC West titles from 2006-09.
On March 27, Telesco released left tackle Jared Gaither, the biggest bust in Smith’s tenure. Gaither was released after just one season of a four-year, $24.5 million contract, of which $13.5 million was guaranteed.
”I like this group of guys a lot because we see how hard they work and know they’ll go out and fight,” Telesco said. ”That’s the big thing. This is a group of guys who look to prove people wrong. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Chargers will carry three quarterbacks, at least for now. Brad Sorensen, a seventh-round draft choice, made the team behind starter Philip Rivers and backup Charlie Whitehurst.
”We’ll see how he develops,” Telesco said. ”He had a nice preseason and we’re happy with what he’s showing in practice. Obviously the third quarterback doesn’t get a lot of snaps, but he got enough in preseason. He definitely has skills and we like him at a position where they’re very difficult to find.”
Among those making the roster were running back Fozzy Whittaker, who was on Arizona’s practice squad for two weeks last season, as well as safety Jahleel Addae and Kwame Geathers, both undrafted rookies.
Geather’s brother, Robert, plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. His uncle, James ”Jumpy” Geathers, spent 13 seasons with four NFL teams.
”They came in with an opportunity and took it and ran with it and won jobs. It’s very rewarding to those guys,” Telesco said.
The Chargers set their offensive line on Friday when they released veteran left tackle Max Starks, who lost the battle for the starting job to King Dunlap.
The Chargers return two starting offensive linemen, but only center Nick Hardwick returns in his original position. Jeromey Clary has moved from right tackle to right guard, and first-round draft pick D.J. Fluker will start at right tackle. Left guard Chad Rinehart, like Dunlap, was a free agent acquisition.
”I thought the line, as they started playing together more and have gotten a lot of snaps together, are getting better and better,” Telesco said. ”We’re starting to see the three inside guys click, which is big. It’s a new spot for Jeromey, Nick is the lynchpin and Chad is new to us. Communication is getting better among all five guys. They’ve got to keep that all season, five players working as one. A lot of it is communication-based.”