Chargers reward Smith with five-year, $11M extension
The Chargers, who made the playoffs for the third time in four years, rewarded general manager A.J. Smith with a five-year, $11 million extension that will keep him in charge through the 2014 season.
Smith has been general manager and executive vice president since 2003. Last year, 11 Chargers, many drafted by Smith, went to the Pro Bowl during a 14-2 season. This season, guard Kris Dielman and cornerback Antonio Cromartie made the Pro Bowl for the first time. Over the past four years, the Chargers have won 46 regular-season games.
Following the Chargers' season-ending victory over the Raiders, owner Dean Spanos called Smith, 58, into his office and asked him if he wanted to stay with the franchise for a long period of time. Over the course of the day, both sides negotiated the five-year deal. Smith signed it Monday. His contract was set to expire after the 2009 season.
The $2.2 million average is believed to make Smith the third highest-paid general manager in the NFL. Bill Parcells, who accepted the director of football operations job in Miami, is believed to have signed a $3 million-per-year deal. Matt Millen of the Lions is making around $2.5 million.
A year ago, Spanos had to make a major decision about the direction of the team. Marty Schottenheimer was the head coach, Smith was the general manager, and the two weren't getting along very well. Spanos initially decided to give Schottenheimer a one-year extension but decided to fire him after several top assistant coaches were allowed to leave. Schottenheimer was under a lot of heat for not winning a playoff game in San Diego.
Smith gambled by hiring Norv Turner as head coach. Turner had set up the Chargers offense in 2001 when he was the team's offensive coordinator, also setting up the running offense for halfback LaDainian Tomlinson.
After a 1-3 start, the Chargers finished 11-5 and won the AFC West.
During the past two seasons, Smith has locked up most of the best young players on the team to long-term contracts.
Smith is probably best known for holding his ground when Eli Manning's representatives told the Chargers just before the 2004 draft that the quarterback wouldn't play for San Diego if it took him with the first overall pick.
Smith drafted Manning anyway, then swapped his rights to the New York Giants for the rights to Philip Rivers, as well as picks he used to take kicker Nate Kaeding later in that draft and Shawne Merriman the following year.
Smith also obtained wide receiver Chris Chambers from Miami at this year's trade deadline. The acquisition of Chambers has helped open up the running game.
The Chargers are 50-30 under Smith, but 0-2 in the postseason.
Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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