The Other 31: Chargers’ new start includes arrivals of Te’o, Freeney

Dwight Freeney

San Diego Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney, long a defensive end for the Colts, runs a drill during minicamp in June. (Denis Poroy/Associated Press)

San Diego Chargers

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Last season’s record: 7-9

Coaching change: Fired Norv Turner, hired Mike McCoy

Key players released: LB Takeo Spikes, S Atari Bigby, TE Randy McMichael, T Jared Gaither, DE Antonio Garay

Key free agents lost: G Louis Vasquez, CB Antoine Cason, DT Aubrayo Franklin, DE Vaughn Martin, LB Shaun Phillips, LB Antwan Barnes, G Tyronne Green, CB Quentin Jammer

Key free agents re-signed: K Nick Novak, RB Ronnie Brown

Key free agents added: CB Johnny Patrick, T King Dunlap, TE John Phillips, G Chad Rinehart, CB Derek Cox, RB Danny Woodhead, DE Jarius Wynn, WR Deon Butler, C/G Rich Ohrnberger, LB Dwight Freeney, FB Chris Gronkowski, T Max Starks

Draft:

Rd. 1 (No. 11 overall)… D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama

2 (38)… Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame

3 (76)… Keenan Allen, WR, California

5 (145)… Steve Williams, CB, California

6 (179)… Tourek Williams, DE, Florida International

7 (221)… Brad Sorensen, QB, Southern Utah

Analysis: The Chargers performed a house-cleaning among their key decision-makers when they fired A.J. Smith as their general manager and Norv Turner as their coach following a 7-9 season. The team’s new GM, Tom Telesco, and first-year coach, Mike McCoy, were unafraid to provide the NFL landing spot for Manti Te’o after the Notre Dame linebacker dropped into the draft’s second round following his disappointing performance in the collegiate national championship game, and the infamous hoax in which the late girlfriend of which he’d spoken turned out never to have existed.

Te’o has managed to mostly avoid the national spotlight since being drafted. The scrutiny is almost certain to return once the season begins and the issue becomes whether he actually can play at the NFL level or not. If the Te’o move works out, the Chargers potentially will have had a highly productive draft. They participated in the first-round league-wide run on offensive tackles when they took Alabama’s D.J. Fluker 11th overall. They landed Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen in the third round. All could be potential contributors as rookies.

The Chargers signed veteran Dwight Freeney after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts.  Freeney, at 33, no longer is among the sport’s most productive pass rushers. He had five sacks last season and has totaled only 13½ sacks over the past two seasons. But he no longer is being asked to be a dominating player. If he merely can be a contributor, his signing will have been worth it to the Chargers.

This is a new start for an organization that so often under Smith and Turner seemed to have so much promise, only to usually fall short in the games that meant the most. No one should rightly expect that new start to include the Chargers competing on even footing with the AFC’s top teams. But there remains a strong foundation of talented players on hand, and if some of the first set of offseason moves made by the new regime work out, there’s no reason to think the Chargers can’t be at least in the mix for a playoff spot.

Why Redskins fans should care: The teams play Nov. 3 at FedEx Field.

Conversation starter: Will Manti Te’o succeed as an NFL player?

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