When the news first broke that the San Diego Chargers had brought in former Kansas City Chiefs No. 1 CB Brandon Flowers for a visit, it was clear that the fit was perfect for both sides. Flowers did not deserve to make the Pro Bowl last season (it was a clear reputation pick), and he struggled in a new defensive scheme that stressed press coverage. The 5’9″, 187 pound Flowers is more of a finesse player, and he turned in easily the worst season of his career under Bob Sutton.
Flowers received plenty of suitors where he could immediately re-establish his credibility as a top corner in this league, but the Chargers looked like a particularly attractive option. The only legit corner on the roster before the time of his signing yesterday was rookie Jason Verrett, so Flowers would step into San Diego as the team’s No. 1 corner.
The Chargers needed Flowers even more, though, and he looked like a must-sign for Tom Telesco heading into the GM’s second season after making the Chargers a surprise playoff team in his first year. Flowers is a great scheme fit for the Chargers, and he’s a bit similar to rookie Verrett. Once a top shutdown corner, Flowers has the ball skills to defend around 20 passes in a season, and he can also play inside or outside. If the Chargers didn’t sign him, then both Shareece Wright (a disaster in coverage last season) and Richard Marshall (I doubt he’ll ever recreate his best days with the Carolina Panthers) would have been top three corners along with Verrett.
As it stands right now, the Chargers cornerback unit will run a top three of Flowers, Verrett, and Wright. While this group isn’t as strong as, say, the one the Denver Broncos will trot out, they could become the second-best unit in the AFC West if things break right. Scooping up a talented, scheme miscast from a top division rival like the Chiefs is usually a net win, even if the Chiefs obviously had no use for Flowers at this stage.
Last season, the Chargers were high on the ability of big corner Derek Cox to star as the team’s top corner, but he was an unmitigated disaster and was benched repeatedly before being released. He found work with the Minnesota Vikings, but he was so bad that the Chargers couldn’t afford to give him an opportunity to make good on his talent in Jacksonville and bounce back to fulfill the large contract they handed to him in 2013. I doubt Flowers ends up turning into Cox, but the Chargers can’t take that risk. This deal contains a few safeguards for the Chargers in case Flowers ends up being Cox 2.0, because it’s only a one-year deal (those never carry risk) and has incentives that can kick it up from being worth $3 million to $5 million.
With Flowers and Verrett in front of star safety Eric Weddle, the Chargers defensive backfield has a great chance of being more than competent for a change. Verrett was my top-ranked cornerback in this year’s class, and it was huge for Telesco to be able to pull him at the end of round one. He may be small, but he has elite ball skills, understands the position, plays the run well, has good physicality, and he has the upside to be a shutdown corner in this league. Brent Grimes and Flowers himself are two players who have proven that skill-set is more important than size, and Verrett could follow in the same vain. Heck, adding Flowers should have some nice fringe benefits from Verrett, who can see that kind of a player first-hand and learn from him over the course of the season.
Huge needs call for significant signings, and the Chargers added a talented, proven veteran to a low-risk deal that makes plenty of sense for both sides. They didn’t allow need to make them too desperate either, as the deal they inked with Flowers is favorable for the organization despite plenty of interest from other clubs. The Flowers signings is a bit similar to the Dwight Freeney signing Telesco made in his first offseason, when he signed Freeney to a two-year deal after Melvin Ingram went down and threatened to deplete the Chargers of a legitimate pass rush. And while Freeney went down early in the season, he looked phenomenal before the injury and showed more ability than we thought. Flowers is younger, cheaper, and carries less risk on his deal, so, based on the Chargers need for a potential lockdown corner, this deal can even be described as a coup.For those of you who like handing out grades, this one is an A.
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