Dec. 23, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; San Diego Chargers strong safety Brandon Taylor (28) is carted off the field after an apparent injury during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Chargers won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Feeling Safe At Safety

Not a pretty picture, is it? Nothing could be worse than seeing your rookie strong safety hauled off in a golf cart, when it has been such a huge position of need, for so long. What makes it worse, is he barely had any time to prove himself on the field, before the injury. But, Taylor sustained a late season torn ACL, and isn’t expected to be healthy until mid-season… at best. So, what now?

The San Diego Chargers recently made the move to put Marcus Gilchrist at Strong Safety, during camp. This could be a permanent move, until 2012 3rd round draft pick Brandon Taylor gets healthy from a late season torn ACL, and up to NFL speed. It could also be a move to make sure that they don’t get caught with their pants down, should there be no options for a good strong safety in free agency. Today is June 1st, where you can cut players, and spread the dead money over the next two seasons. This opens up more money for our salary cap. Not only will we be making cuts, but so will other NFL teams. Players could become available in the upcoming days, and weeks. Others are already on the market, and have not been signed. At this point in free agency, the prices can drop, because players haven’t been signed. Or, players can demand more money, simply because there isn’t any other decent option out there.

Eric Weddle, who is our best defensive player, has experienced the same type of revolving door that Philip Rivers has. It seems like every year, we are signing another injury-prone stop-gap safety to play next to him. Since we didn’t sign a top safety in the draft, this may be the case, once again. Marcus Gilchrist has been moved from nickel corner, to strong safety. He is a little bit undersized, but is getting the reps in OTA’s, regardless. Jammer was signed by the Broncos this week, so Gilchrist appears to be the short-term solution.

When Tom Telesco came to town, he let our two starting cornerbacks walk. This isn’t too surprising, as their play was less than desirable, resulting in a horrible third down completion percentage.. which is the biggest problem of an otherwise good defense. However, moving Gilchrist over to safety greatly effects the depth at cornerback. We have signed free agent Derek Cox to a starting cornerback role, and Shareece Wright is assumed to be starting opposite. Both have had trouble staying healthy, despite showing that they have talent. The only two cornerbacks worth mentioning behind them are newly signed rookie Steve Williams, and Johnny Patrick. That doesn’t exactly make you want to jump up, and wave your flag in the air. There are hopes that UDFA Cromartie could come in and play well, but is he NFL ready? I am personally not loving the free agent market for cornerbacks right now. It’s possible that more could be cut, and become available in the next few weeks. But, it’s not exactly deep, and the CB’s that are available are old, or just not that good.

If we were to sign a reliable stop-gap strong safety, Marcus Gilchrist could get back to competing with Shareece Wright for the #2 spot on the outside. This would also relieve our depth situation, and Gilchrist isn’t as injury-prone either. Even if he doesn’t beat out Wright, he will almost certainly beat out Williams for the nickel spot. This all makes our secondary much more solid.

Other options MIGHT become available soon. But, let’s take a look at what options are on the market at Strong Safety right now. I’ll throw in some guys who are already on the roster, as well.

Kerry Rhodes: Rhodes is 30 year old Free Safety. However, at 6′ 3 & 212 pounds… he could easily play strong safety. The acclaimed Ex-New York Jet veteran was released by the Arizona Cardinals back in March. In 2012, Rhodes had 58 tackles, 9 assists, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and defended 11 passes. To put a comparison on it, Atari Bigby only had one more combined tackle, and put up goose-eggs in the sack, interception, and forced fumble categories. Not to mention, he only registered 3 defended passes. Clearly, this would be an immediate upgrade. If he could be signed to a one year contract, this would give Taylor plenty of time to recover, could be a better mentor than Bigby was, and would give Weddle the freedom to ball-hawk the backfield! He may have to settle for the veteran minimum, as he hasn’t drawn any attention in free agency. As I said earlier, he would solve the safety, and cornerback dilemma in one swoop. There have been some allegations of Kerry being gay, after a video submerged of him being (presumably) spotted with his “lover”.  Rhodes denies the allegations that he is gay. Personally, I couldn’t care less. If he can play better than Gilchrist, then he would be a welcome alternative over Atari “bite on the play action” Bigby.

Quintin Mikell: Mikell is a 32 year old safety, and was released by the Rams this season. Rumor has it that he could possibly be signed back by the team. As of now, he is on the market, and will likely be forced to sign a one year vet-minimum contract, like Rhodes. The Rams are in a similar salary cap situation as we are, and aren’t looking to pay premium prices for safeties this season. Mikell improved in coverage last season and recorded 101 tackles, three sacks, and four forced fumbles. The defensive staff in St. Louis liked him, but were set to absorb a whopping nine million dollar salary cap hit, by retaining him. Could the Chargers possibly play a little ball, and get him over here? It would be yet another welcomed addition, after so much uncertainty at the position, over the last few years.

Atari Bigby: Why am I even putting his name here? I’m probably going to get killed for this. I’m asking myself that same question right now. Mainly, because he might be the next best option, if you ask me. OK… he was released… I get it. I also understand that he wasn’t very good at holding onto the ball in key situations last year, and bit on play action more than a mule bites on a carrot. His stats really weren’t that great with the Chargers for the 2012 season, and he spent a few games on the bench with injury.. as usual. Having said that, if we can sign him to a VERY cheap contract, he would only need to stay healthy long enough for Brandon Taylor to come back. He knows the playbook, he knows Pagano, and he has familiarity with Weddle. I might do it based on this reason alone. He isn’t going to be looking for big money, nobody has shown interest, we can move him to back-up safety as SOON as Taylor is ready to go without feeling that bad about it. The first two guys on the list might not play as well, knowing that they are just a 9 game solution to the problem. If anything, Bigby might be the most likely to stay on the team behind Taylor, and would have the most experience if Taylor needs a breather, or sustains another injury. At the price he could command from the Chargers, it might not be a bad idea to make a move like that. After all, he did wear Bolts last year.

Corey Lynch: Lynch actually paid a visit to the Chiefs recently, which was his first move in free agency. However, the Chiefs decided to sign someone else, instead. Lynch is 28 years old, and started 4 games for the Chargers last season. He did appear in all 16 games for the Chargers in 2012, though. Lynch has gotten a lot of support from the Chargers fanbase this offseason. Much like Bigby, he is someone you could put in there, and expect to give it his all, despite possibly having to yank him back out of the line-up when Taylor comes back. He could be a solid back-up for the Chargers safety position. He recorded 39 tackles,  7 assists, and had 2 interceptions in 2012. Not bad, for a guy who only started 4 games.

Darrell Stuckey: Not hating on Darrell. He is a good special teamer, and created 4 forced fumbles last season (All against Denver), and could be a solid player at safety. He is a little on the short side, but weighs in as heavy as the rest of this group. So, he is a stout little dude. I don’t think he’ll steal the starting role, but he can apparently give Denver fumbling nightmares.. lol. He will definitely bring the level of competition up during camp.

Sean Cattouse: I threw him in here, because he is on the roster. Not sure if he has anything we are looking for at the safety position, until Taylor returns. Maybe one of you can champion his cause, and make an argument that he could be the guy. I don’t want to make this article much longer. He hasn’t even seen the field. Maybe once? Not knocking the guy, just not the answer IMO.

Jahleel Addae: An Undrafted Free Agent safety out of Central Michigan, Addae is another player that Charger fans are eager to see. He weighs in as the shortest, and lightest at 5′ 10″ (actually 5′ 9″ and 3/4), and 195 lbs. He had a 4.65 forty yard dash, a 38 1/2 inch vertical jump, 10 bench presses, and a 10′ 4″ broad jump. Addae was a three-time All-MAC selection and two-time CMU Defensive Player of the Year. He tied for the league lead as a senior with four interceptions, while tallying 89 tackles and being named a co-captain. Addae earned MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors for his standout play in the Senior Day win over Miami, after totaling 10 tackles with half a sack and an interception. A Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list selection, Addae compiled 302 tackles, including 15 for a loss, and eight interceptions for his career. (Yes… I copied and pasted most of that.. why re-write what others have been so gracious as to research for you?). He has managed to gain the hopes & affections of quite a few fans around here. I’m sure Charger management will have a close eye on him during camp, and preseason. If he plays well, then he could be the perfect soultion until Taylor is healthy.

So, there you have it. A quick look at what is out there in free agency, and what we currently have at the safety position. I will put the complete list of available free agents below, for you all to review. Perhaps there are some “diamond in the rough” or “dark horse” kind of players out there, that you feel deserve a shout out.

Thanks for reading, and Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!

Kerry Rhodes
Quintin Mikell
Sherrod Martin
Atari Bigby
Jordan Babineaux
Madieu Williams
Erik Coleman
Abram Elam
Charlie Peprah
Eric Smith
Chris Crocker
Chris Hope
James Sanders (suspended four games)
Sean Considine
Sabby Piscitelli
Corey Lynch
Matt Giordano
Josh Barrett
Troy Nolan
Eric Frampton
Tyrone Culver
Ray Ventrone
Derrick Martin
Eric Hagg
Nate Ness


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  • J.C. Ortiz

    I think you are looking at this in the wrong manner. Gilchrist should have been playing safety ever since he was drafted. He projected better at that position coming out of college (and was even drafted as a S/CB hybrid according to Pagano). According to PFF, Gilchrist played fairly poorly at NB last season. He projects best at S IMO. He’s just not very good in man to man coverage which we ask our CB’s to do the majority of the time.

    Moving him to S improves our overall coverage on the backend. Now the question you should be asking instead is: Which CB should we bring in to compete with Wright and provide depth at the position.

    • Peter Thompson

      I like to think that I have a pretty good eye on it. Gilchrist could be the
      answer… but, he hasn’t started at safety in the NFL.. let alone being a
      full-time starting CB. I’m not opposed to him “competing” for the
      safety position.. but, I think he would be learning for the first half
      of the season. In which case, you might as well put some other newbie
      in there, and not deplete your CB corps. Or, sign a one year veteran. I don’t like any of the CB’s
      out there right now, anymore than I like Gilchrist. Sheldon Brown might
      be the only one, and he is getting old. Also, what happens to Gilchrist when
      Taylor comes back? Do you cut your new FA corner, or send him to the back of the CB pack? Put Gilly in the 4th,
      or 5th slot? Or, are you just saying that Gilly will be the starting
      safety from here out, and Taylor will be the odd man out?

      • C.Steele

        I don’t know Pete. I agree with J.C on this. Our Goal is to get the best players on the field at each position. If Gilchrist is the best option, go with him. I believe the rookie corners, drafted and undrafted, would give Gilchrist a run for his money on the starting slot corner anyway. Gilchrist’s man to man coverage skills, especially in the slot as stated above, are already in question. Now, when Taylor comes back you evaluate how Gilchrist is playing to see if you move to Taylor. The beauty of the situation is Gilchrist can do both roles…I personally would like to see Stuckey seriously evaluated for the role, I don’t think Norv actually did that. #GoBolts

        • Peter Thompson

          You only have to look up Stuckey’s stats to see what a fabulous job Norv did of evaluating him. There pretty much aren’t any.

  • Cgoodness13

    With gilchrist at SS are we gonna have to run a cover 2 D? Or is he a better run supporter than I think? Maybe just have weddle at SS and gilchrist at FS?

    • Peter Thompson

      So many questions at that position. Not pulling the trigger on Vaccaro in the first round (or not drafting ANY until UDFA) really left some unanswered questions at the position.

  • Cgoodness13

    Also if your putting up bigby, why not sanders?

    • Peter Thompson

      Sanders didn’t play last year. He isn’t even on the available list. I don’t like it when players are out of the league for even a year. Also, I don’t see the new regime ever making that kind of a move.

  • Cgoodness13

    And how dare you for not mentioning moving a offensive player to SS!!!!! Lol Jk

    • Peter Thompson

      Lol.. such a bad ass.. in case there was any question. Jay Cutler would have already been reading the playbook on the bench for the next series.

    • Gunnar Martin

      I remember that. And I hope I never forget it.

  • Alter Ego

    Its a completely new DB squad save for Weddle. We don’t know squat yet – No one other than Rhodes jumps out on the listed available safetys as a viable player for us. Since TT and McCoy didn’t pursue anyone else other than our UFA signings – gotta believe that its a non issue. When they stop playing two hand touch in their underware…well, shit – its on then. Maybe that bastard AJ actually drafted a couple of guys (Gilchrist,Wright and Taylor) that can be part of a Dead Bolt D. Can’t begin to speculate until we see this group perform. TT and MM and Pagono know who they got and are not blinking . Let em play.

    • Peter Thompson

      Of course, Paul. But, as Ernie said in a comment recently.. this site wouldn’t exist if we didn’t speculate. Especially in the offseason. Gonna think about the “what if’s” and roll with it until we have some more definitive answers. That’s part of the fun of it.

      • Alter Ego

        Well then Pete, I speculate that they will be fantastic. I thought that I provided enough clues in which way I was rollin’ though. I appreciate the obvious over the top – yet sorta odd – I bet made with all good intentions – explanation of what is discussed on the site. I think I can give my opinion with out any help though. I do understand that you dont know what you dont know – its not your intention to be arrogant. Pete, I got this. I think I bring just enough to inspire others to discuss shit.

        • Peter Thompson

          Are we still talking about football, Paul? Hahahaha… I have the utmost respect for your opinions.

          • Alter Ego

            Eat my shorts Pete.

        • NativeSanDiegan

          Funny. We definitely agree about AJ

  • Sergio Quintero

    Gilchrist put up better numbers in college as a Safety, I actually wanted the chargers to focus him at S. With an NFL moving more & more towards a passing league having 2 free safeties that can actually cover the slot and have above average ball skills seems to be right way to go.

    The chargers will probably want to have Gilchrist & Taylor compete for the starters spot, so that eliminates Rhodes & Mikell, so for me I would sign Lynch, and if the young player experiment blows up, he’s functional as a starter.

    • Cgoodness13

      Taylor played CB half his college career, so he can cover also.

      • Sergio Quintero

        I’m sure Taylor would be the starter & Gilchrist would have stayed at corner, if they were certain that Taylor would be healthy and ready for the start of camp.

        So the fact they moved Gilchrist to S is not exactly a vote of confidence towards the health of Taylor. I’m hopeful Taylor will be playing by the time preseason games start.

        It might be a blessing in disguise, since I think Gilchrist is a better S than corner.

  • HT

    To get rid of Jammer was A pure stupid Move!! Jammer & Phillips will bite us in the ASS!! You know the feeling of falling off a Ladder………. Knowing your going to hit the ground an it’s going to hurt, but can’t do a da’gum thing about it!! This is where the Chargers are at right now!!

    • Gunnar Martin

      Playing against Jammer twice a year will be anything but getting bit in the rear. And Phillips might still be okay, I mean who can really know for sure how good he will be now (he’s relatively old), but at least it’s not Dumerville over there anymore.

      • Nick in PB

        Those are two vets I really wish could have stayed. The thing is, there is no way they would have accepted lower salaries, like they did with Denver, to play for us. They also would have had to accept backup, mentor roles. They took less money with Denver for the chance at a ring. Ideally, both would’ve had another year on their contract for the Chargers and the coaches would have been upfront with them in their new roles. Phillips would have been a situational pass rusher (before the Ingram injury) and Jammer, well, he might have been the starting strong safety but was no longer serviceable as a corner.

        • Peter Thompson

          Perfectly summarized, Nick!

    • Cgoodness13

      SP was a liability against the run, and Jammer was a liability against the pass. They played hard and all but jammer was getting burnt to often and SP relied to Mutch on the rest of the team to stop the run.

      • Peter Thompson


  • Rob Base

    I say sign Mr Lynch Mob. Dude played solid. Could be good depth and backup in case of injury. But Addae looks pretty solid he could be a surprise sleeper.

    • Peter Thompson

      I’d be down with that.

      • Nick in PB

        I would be too… except he’s not currently on the roster. Right? I’m actually surprised that he’s not with our situation at safety.

        • Peter Thompson

          I agree. I am still not convinced they won’t make a move in the safety direction… even if it’s signing Lynch back.

  • Gunnar Martin

    Won’t be healthy until mid-season at best? Um, I think not, still a (albeit slim) chance he could be active for the Texans game. Quite possible it takes longer than that, but that’s the best case scenario.

    • Peter Thompson

      Great point, Gunnar!!! Here’s my math. Adrian Peterson got surgery on New Year’s Day. It was considered a miracle that he played 9 months later on opening day. Jamaal Charles took about 3 months longer to recover from the same injury (almost 12 months, by comparison). It depends on the player, and the severity of the injury. Since Taylor’s knee was also reconstructed in early January, I would conservatively say that he doesn’t return to his “starting” role until around the bye week (week 8). That would be 10-11 months, and a perfect time to put him back in, if healthy. I have heard he is ahead of schedule, so I would obviously be VERY happy to have him back earlier than that. When he returns, McCoy and TT might play it safe, or put him in straight away. The last thing you want to do is rush a player onto the field after an ACL injury. Don’t forget, he hasn’t had much playing time, and who knows when he will start full-contact practices. He will be rusty, for sure. We’ll have to wait & see. I hope you are right, quite honestly. I love being wrong about this kind of stuff. Thanks for the comments Gunnar!!!

      • Gunnar Martin

        Yeah that sounds pretty realistic, I was just being picky since it said “… at best.” Haha

  • MC Boltman

    Nice list Pete! Corey Lynch was $540.000 cap hit last year…as backup for Taylor a nice option…

    • Peter Thompson

      Danka, my good man! Lynch does seem to be the front runner… or Addae.

  • PakMaN


    lol jk but I agree there are more moves we should make in free agency.

    • Peter Thompson

      Lol… I think so too.

  • OP Bolt

    Great article. I agree that this is pretty weak position, especially in the number of players in camp competing for position compared to other positions and the ability to absorb injuries.

    For sake of argument, let’s assume Taylor won’t be available till mid-season or later. If I were the management, I think I would be seriously tempted to cache him off for the year, make sure the knee is solid for the 2014 season.

    Also let’s assume your initial Safeties for the 53 man roster will be the same as the start of last year: FS – 3; SS – 2. Further, let’s assume that as a coaching staff you value pass defense skills in your SS, as much, or more than his head-thumping skills. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to be a good tackler, or afraid to stick his nose in – but you need him more often in space than in the scrum. I guess I would say I think that there is less and less distinction between the FS and the SS – so that’s how I would plan the roster – 5 safeties who can cover and tackle.

    If we started Weddle and Gilchrist today. would we be better at this position(s) than if we had kept Bigby (remember – we need pass defense skills as much as or more than head thumping skills)? If so, then we have Stuckey, Cattouse, and Addae slotted for the other three positions – assuming Taylor is parked in some sort of PUP/IR status.This gets to your argument about the penalty for not drafting Vaccarro. I think he clearly would have strengthened the competition in this group. But we didn’t draft him. So, do we give the coaches enough time to evaluate what we have, or do we pull the trigger on another FA? I think we need more competition in camp to find the right 5 guys and provide some bench strength to cover for injuries.

    • Peter Thompson

      Thanks, OP Bolt! Great comments. I Couldn’t agree more. Our safety situation isn’t going to miraculously get better than it was with Bigby, simply by plugging Gilchrist in. There is a learning curve there. I would sign a veteran free agent (even Bigby), since we didn’t pick up a starting safety in the draft. These other 4 guys haven’t got any starting safety experience in the NFL. What if Weddle goes down? You could petentially have TWO newbies in there.. bad news. Sign someone asap, because I think you are right. I have my doubts about the impact Taylor’s return will have this year.. so why would TT or McCoy even gamble with his injury?

  • Mark

    Atari Bigby should not be in the NFL. He couldn’t tackle me. The worst SS we have ever signed for that kind of money. I would’ve kept Jammer and moved him there long before resigning this clown. It will never happen.

  • Will

    Atari was great last year. He was the best ss we’ve had in a while. If any of u disagree then I don’t know what the hell u were watching…

  • joerockt

    This article seems extremely relevant again. Kerry Rhodes would be a great addition.