The Corey Liuget bandwagon just got a little more crowded ... and tickets are not cheap.
The Chargers announced on Tuesday they have locked up Liuget with a long-term deal. The pact is for five years and worth $58.5 million, including $30 million guaranteed, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
Liuget was one of four core players entering contract years; the others are Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle. But with Rivers waffling on whether he wants to re-up, especially with the team's future in San Diego still unknown, Liuget became the clear top priority.
"Corey is hard-work personified," Head Coach Mike McCoy said. "He will do whatever it takes to get better and help the team. And he's still improving. There's no limit to how good he can be. He has a lot of great football ahead."
Most recent contract talk has centered on Eric Weddle, who has been vocal with his displeasure in the team's refusal to extend his expiring contract. But those who follow the team closely know that Liuget, not Weddle, has been the team's best defender over the last few seasons.
Also, Liuget deserves credit for the way he went about his business. Instead of skipping practices and negotiating through the media, he kept his mouth shut and his nose to the grindstone.
"The Chargers are the only team I've ever wanted to play for since they drafted me and my No. 1 goal now as it has always been is just to continue to prepare and play at a high level to show them how much I appreciate their confidence in me," Liuget said.
Liuget's deal comes as several other notable defensive linemen from the 2011 draft are receiving new contracts. He becomes the fourth defensive end from his draft class to be extended, joining J.J. Watt (Texans), Robert Quinn (Rams) and Cameron Jordan (Saints).
Jordan signed a five-year extension that included $55 million in new money last week, according to Rapoport, which helped lay the framework for Liuget's deal.
"Corey is a consummate team player who goes about his work in an unselfish manner," GM Tom Telesco said. "His preparation and dedication to the game and the Chargers has been evident since day one. Corey is talented, tough and durable, and plays a very important role in our defense."
Liuget comes off a monster season in which he led the team in sacks (4.5), quarterback pressures (18) and tackles for loss (19). He also forced two fumbles and recovered another, a memorable recovery in the end zone in the wild Week 16 win over the 49ers.
Amazingly, 2014 wasn't even Liuget's best season statistically. In 2012 he set career-highs with seven sacks and nine passes batted down. Now that the Chargers have upgraded the back end of their defense, Liuget should have a chance to post those kinds of numbers again.
"It's feels awesome to know I got this deal done at a very crucial time in my career, while I'm still young," Liuget said.
The deal also provides some long-term certainty on the defensive line. Several other Chargers defensive linemen are entering contract years, as well, including Kendall Reyes and Ricardo Mathews.
Extending Liuget also secures a mentor for rookie sixth-round pick Darius Philon, who like Liuget is more of a one-gap penetrator than a two-gap run stuffer. Philon will battle the likes of Mathews and Damion Square for a backup spot in San Diego's hybrid three-man front.
More importantly, this deal shows Telesco is not shy to extend San Diego's homegrown players, even those drafted before he took over as general manager in 2013. He did the same thing last offseason by extending Donald Butler, and although Butler had a disappointing 2014 campaign, it is clear Telesco will not allow that letdown to affect his judgement going forward.
What do you think of Corey Liuget's new contract? Talk about it inside our new message boards!
Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. In addition to being publisher of SDBoltReport.com, he also works as the Senior NFL Reporter for Footballinsiders.com. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.