Free Agency

Free Agent Forecast: Andre Caldwell and Leonard Hankerson


Normally, our Free Agent Forecast stories profile a pending free agent who should be of interest to the Chargers. This time, we are going to profile a couple of players at the same position, because the Chargers likely need to add three new receivers this offseason.

San Diego began the 2015 season with six receivers on the active roster. Of those six, gone are Malcom Floyd (retirement) and Jacoby Jones (released). Stevie Johnson could be gone, as well, as his $2.9 million base salary for 2016 is exorbitant for a player with so little dependability or self-control.

The Chargers do not need a game-breaking receiver. Keenan Allen is a pure No. 1, so that role is already cast. Also, even after signing a couple free agents, I expect GM Tom Telesco to address the position in the draft. Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge and Illinois’ Geronimo Allison will get strong consideration between Rounds 2-4.

Telesco just needs to find a couple reliable, affordable veterans to round out the depth chart. That way, when the injury bug inevitably bites, Philip Rivers isn’t left throwing to practice-squad players like he was in 2015.

One player who makes a lot of sense is Andre Caldwell (6’0″, 200 lbs.). The younger brother of former Chargers receiver Reche Caldwell, Andre is an excellent route runner who is familiar with head coach Mike McCoy, having played for him in Denver in 2012.

Caldwell, 30, is the forgotten man in Denver. He has finished each of the last two seasons with less than 100 total receiving yards, but that is primarily because he is stuck behind Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders on the depth chart. He averaged 365 yards per season between 2009-2011 with the Bengals, which is a better reflection of what he can do when given significant playing time (he has averaged just 236 offensive snaps per season over the last three years in Denver).

Another reason for Caldwell’s muted statistics is the fact he is often deployed as a blocker. He is a strong in-line and second-level blocker who could help Melvin Gordon as much as Rivers.

A three-year, $5 million contract should be enough to pry Caldwell away from the rival Broncos.

Another sub-package receiver who makes a lot of sense is Leonard Hankerson. The former Redskin began last season with the Falcons, where he caught 26 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns in just eight games of action. He then suffered a hamstring injury and had a few uncharacteristic drops, which prompted the Falcons to place him on injured-reserve before eventually waiving him outright. He spent a game apiece with the Patriots and Bills late in the season.

“Basically, it just came down to he wasn’t going to be a part of our future plans,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

Hankerson (6’2″, 211 lbs.) is a smooth receiver who reads defenses well and knows how to make himself available to his quarterback. He is also more than two years removed from a major knee injury in November 2013 when he tore his ACL and LCL.

Still just 27 years old, Hankerson could be had for a two-year, $3 million “prove it” deal. What he’s trying to prove, of course, is that he can get back to his pre-injury form, when he caught 68 passes for 918 yards over his final 26 games in Washington.

The Chargers would do well to let him make that point while catching passes from No. 17.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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