On Thursday, the Chargers announced in a rather sudden fashion that former first-round pick Jerry Tillery was waived. The move comes after Tillery missed the game against the Falcons after supposedly hurting his back while lifting. Prior to that, teams around the league did express interest in trading for Tillery as we now know per Adam Schefter:
In a larger scale sense, the future of Tillery with the Chargers was understood — Los Angeles declined Tillery's fifth-year option back in May. By conventional logic. it was clear what the front office was signaling there. Telesco had never previously declined the option for a fifth year on any of his first-round picks prior to Tillery. Even the oft-injured Jason Verrett had his final contract year with the Chargers picked up.
This is also the first time the Chargers have cut a premium draft pick mid-season in a fairly drastic way. Telesco seemed to indicate in his statement that this was in the best interest of both Tillery and the team.
Perhaps that is true in the long-term, but Tillery had been serviceable in his more limited role this season. Not to mention, the Chargers lost DT Austin Johnson for the rest of the season after his injury against Atlanta and are still missing Joey Bosa on the EDGE to manufacture pressure.
Jerry Tillery still could have provided depth to the Chargers.
The former Notre Dame product wasn't replacing either of those players or roles in terms of stepping up as the next man, but it decreased the Chargers' depth on the defensive line at a time where it's already thin. Perhaps the Chargers have a defensive line move in the works in free agency. Nonetheless, it's another hole to plug for the time being.
For Telesco, this was a radical departure in terms of how he traditionally conducts business and values his first-round selections. This was a defining move for head coach Brandon Staley as well. In the Staley-Renaldo Hill defense, Tillery played the highest snap count of his career in 2021 with 858. Prior to being cut, he was on pace to finish the 2022 season with just 461 snaps played.
After figuring out what they had in Tillery in 2021, Staley clearly contributed to the decision on declining his fifth-year option in addition to Telesco. Keeping it on the field, decreasing Tillery's snap count and role was also very intentional since the beginning of the season. In practical terms, Tillery was reduced from previously operating as a four down player to a quasi-pass rush specialist.
Staley had never truly given a full-throated endorsement to Tillery in 2022 or even the idea of him remaining with the team pass this year:
The Chargers moving on from Tillery in the long term is by no means shocking, but the way it happened under Telesco and Staley's watch is a defining, potentially precedent-setting moment going forward.