The Chargers must have more surprises in store, because they just released Billy Volek, arguably the most valuable backup-QB in the league. Volek may not be a starting-caliber QB, but he is certainly no slouch either.
Volek will be forever engrained in the memories of true Charger fans for his excellent play in the 2008 AFC Divisional Championships, where he spelled Philip Rivers late in the fourth quarter, engineering a comeback victory against the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts to take the Chargers to the AFC Championship Game.
Volek spent five seasons with the Chargers, contributing both on the field and behind the scenes helping Rivers prepare for upcoming defenses. He will be replaced by Charlie Whitehurst, whose most memorable contribution to any team came in 2010 when he was traded away from the Chargers to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a 2011 third-round draft pick and a shift up in the second round of the 2010 draft.
The Chargers benefited greatly from this deal, trading the upgraded 2010 second round pick to move up in the first round to select Ryan Mathews, and exercising the third round pick in 2011 to select Shareece Wright, a promising cornerback out of USC.
Whitehurst is a quarterback who has consistently proven himself incapable of carrying an NFL team, which should be of great concern considering the flux of the Charger’s offensive line this offseason with the release of Marcus McNeill and the unfortunate early retirement of Kris Dielman. Though the Chargers have re-signed Nick Hardwick and Jared Gaither, there are still a lot of questions about whether this unit can effectively protect the quarterback for an entire season.
The Chargers are expected to look for help early in the draft to improve the O-line, and with the release of Volek this must become even more of a priority. The Chargers cannot afford to put any portion of a game (let alone a pivotal season) in the hands of Whitehurst, so Rivers must be protected. In light of Volek’s release, the Chargers will likely also try to go after another quarterback late in the draft, hoping to score a gem to develop behind Rivers.