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Second Chances And Clean Slates In SD

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Robert Meachem was a disappointment last season for the Chargers. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.
Robert Meachem was a disappointment last season for the Chargers. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Former general manager A.J. Smith made a number of questionable personnel decisions toward the end of his tenure with the Chargers. He did have a few solid pickups, but it was the signings of Robert Meachem and Jared Gaither that ultimately cost Smith his job.

Meachem will remain a Charger next season. He’s guaranteed $5 million in 2013 and the Chargers can’t afford to cut him because the cap hit would be nearly twice what he’s owed if he plays. The team can only hope Meachem will return to form.

Gaither was nearly flawless for five games during the 2011 season. And following the retirements of his best and most important offensive linemen, Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill, Smith was all but forced to resign Gaither at the end of the 2011 season.

Four games played at a cost of $9 million in 2012, a mysterious injury, and a growing mistrust in the locker room was enough for the Chargers to release Gaither.

New management has repeatedly said that everyone is starting with a clean slate. In fact, head coach Mike McCoy reiterated that point last week after the team’s first voluntary offseason workout.

“The most important thing is that every individual on the football team is going to start with a clean slate this season,” he said.

Apparently Gaither was such a fluke that he was not awarded that luxury. Fortunately, the Chargers won’t be severely hindered by his release because the team was able to spread his $6 million cap hit over the 2013-2014 seasons.

So, moving forward, Robert Meachem gets a second chance. Jared Gaither does not. And while Meachem and Gaither will forever be linked to the dying era of A.J. Smith, a few bright spots remain.

Linebacker Donald Butler and wide receiver Danario Alexander had breakout seasons in 2012.

Butler, who is entering the final season of rookie contract, was tremendous in 12 games last season. He finished third on the team in total tackles, forced two fumbles, and returned one interception for a touchdown. Additionally, the Chargers expanded his role to include nickel and passing down situations.

Alexander was signed midseason and finished with 37 receptions for 658 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns. In March, the Chargers placed the low tender ($1.323 million) on Alexander which means other teams have until April 19 to present San Diego with a signed offered sheet. The Chargers would then have the option to match it. If they don’t and Alexander signs elsewhere, they will not receive any draft compensation because of the low tender.