General Manager Tom Telesco Best Moves In Free Agency

Saahil Malik
Melvin Gordon
LA Chargers Running Back Melvin Gordon Watches On During Chargers Training Camp. Photo Credit: Monica Dyrud

General Manager Tom Telesco has been running the football operations for the Chargers front office since 2013. Telesco moved from the Indianapolis Colts where he was Director of Player Personal. He oversaw what is probably the franchise’s most successful run of football over fourteen years, helping the team amass 154 wins, highlighted by the success of Peyton Manning and the Super Bowl the Colts won in 2006.

In 2013 Dean Spanos hired Telesco to take the spot of former GM A.J. Smith, who left a lot of work for Telesco to do, including fixing their salary cap issues. With his background as a scout, it should be no surprise to anyone that Telesco has a reputation for not making a ton of big-money signings or trades in free agency. Here are the best moves I believe Telesco has made in the free-agent market since taking over, in no particular order.

General Manager Tom Telesco Best Moves In Free Agency

Signing Tyrod Taylor

The foresight on this move has to feel incredible at this point. Maybe Telesco knew Rivers’ time was nearing an end with the organization. To bring in a guy like Tyrod to back him up, even for a year was a stroke of genius.

Anthony Lynn has recently announced him as the team’s starter, while they most likely will bring in a first-round quarterback prospect.

Taylor was a Pro-Bowler in 2015, and in 2017, he led his Buffalo squad to a playoff appearance for the first time in 17 years, even after being benched for Nathan Peterman. Taylor carries a gaudy 4.0 TD to INT ratio, compared to Aaron Rodgers who has a 4.3 ratio (best in NFL history). “TyGod” as he is affectionately known as, has also established a reputation for being a dual-threat, rushing for over 500 yards twice in a season. Not bad for a guy to be taking over the reins to your team after a Hall of Famer QB leaves while knowing they still want to develop a young guy behind him.

Trading Russell Okung For Trai Turner

I’m sure people are still trying to figure out why the Panthers even made this trade. The Chargers struggled to keep Phillip Rivers upright last season, so being able to pull off this trade is a good-sized heist.

Okung, while being a former Pro-Bowler, is clearly on the last leg of his NFL career. He also makes more money and is five years older than Turner. Not to mention that Trai Turner has been a Pro-Bowler five out of his first six seasons in the NFL.

The Chargers essentially swapped out a tackle for a guard, in order to get a guy who is equally effective as Okung at his worst, but a good amount younger and cheaper. That doesn’t mean resigning Turner won’t cost them a pretty penny, but that’s a good problem to have.

Letting Melvin Gordon Walk

Frank Schwab from Yahoo Sports recently wrote an excellent article about the payment history of massive running back contracts. Surprise surprise, big-ticket running backs that cost a lot of money are generally not worth it.

Player empowerment is what is best for the league at the end of the day, but the bottom line is you’re never going to convince a serious NFL franchise to invest a huge amount of money into a running back. I don’t care how good they are. The position simply calls for more physical abuse than any other on the playing field. You’re running in between the biggest guys on the field, just waiting to get smashed.

Take your pick of big-name running back contracts and you’ll see they haven’t worked out. Gurley, Lev Bell, Zeke, DeMarco Murray, even Adrian Peterson was shown the door during the third season of his contract. Melvin Gordon has had ONE, 1,000 yard/Pro Bowl campaign in his career and he is 27 years old. As witnessed by the Broncos tepid two-year, $16 million contract and his average performance after sitting out four games last season, letting him walk was the right move.

Signing Chris Harris Jr.

The Chargers don’t necessarily need Chris Harris Jr. But who is complaining about too much of a good thing?

They have Hayward and King on the outsides (King will most likely be a rover all season), with Derwin James and Nassir Adderley playing behind them. They have an elite secondary already.

Harris was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and only played twelve games. His numbers last season were still great and he played four more games. You can find more on his production last season here.

While at 30 years old he’s going to start slowing down, getting a guy of this caliber as your fifth-best DB option is a pretty good signing. The best stat I found about Chris Harris? He has only let one receiver go for over 85 yards on him. Pretty incredible.

Signing Casey Haward

Unlike Chris Harris, this was a signing of need and turned out to be an absolute home run. The Packers drafted Hayward in the second round, but after three so-so years in Green Bay, they decided not to offer him a contract as an unrestricted free agent. By all intensive purposes, it simply seemed like an ordinary player that they drafted, that didn’t work out. Happens every day in the NFL.

Enter the Chargers and Telesco, who signed Haywards to a 3 year/$15.30 million contract. How did he repay the Chargers? Back to back Pro Bowl appearances, as well as consecutive appearances in the NFL top 100 players. A guy who looked like a journeyman backup in the waiting, turned Pro Bowler, is about as good a signing you can to get.

Signing Danny Woodhead

Admittedly, Woodhead had a bunch of tough injuries to deal with, and people often forget what a spark he brought to the then San Diego Chargers. Ronnie Brown and Ryan Mathews were injury prone and ineffective themselves, and in the meantime, Woodhead accounted for two 1,000 all-purpose yard seasons the two times he played sixteen games. That kind of production even twice for a two-year, $3.5 million deal is pretty unreal.

Signing Mike Pouncey

At the time Pouncey was probably Telesco’s biggest brand name signing. A two-year, $15 million deal for a guy who was a multiple time Pro Bowler and in the prime of his career. Pouncey had a neck injury that kept him out most of 2019, so we’re still waiting to see what kind of returns on investment we’re looking at here, but this was for sure the splashiest signing Telesco has made before this big offseason we’re currently in.