Chargers' Manumaleuna inked to new three-year pact
By Len Pasquarelli
Continuing a remarkable streak at the negotiating table in which the team has locked up most of its key players with extensions, the San Diego Chargers on Friday evening signed tight end Brandon Manumaleuna to a new, three-year contract through 2010
2006 Season Stats Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
14 91 3 6.5 19 73
Financial details of the new contract were not immediately available. The deal replaces the final two seasons of a five-year contract that Manumaleuna signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2004. Under that contract, Manumaleuna was scheduled to earn base salaries of $1.475 million in 2007 and $1.525 million in 2008.
Under the stewardship of general manager A.J. Smith, the Chargers over the past year have made a concerted effort to sign their core players to extensions as they attempt to construct a team that can challenge for the Super Bowl for several more seasons.
San Diego now has 27 players under contract through the 2009 season. Twenty of its 24 starters, counting its two kicking specialists, are signed for at least three more years each.
While he is not technically a full-time starter, Manumaleuna is a key component in the San Diego offense, and figures to see his role expanded even more in 2007. First-year Chargers' head coach Norv Turner relies heavily on multiple-tight end formations, and Manumaleuna, who can play tight end and H-back, is a superb complement to standout Antonio Gates.
"Brandon's ability to contribute in both the run game and the passing game were key to our success in 2006," Smith said in a statement. "He's an extremely talented blocker, but also showed last year that he can make the tough catch when we need him to."
The former University of Arizona standout, acquired from the Rams in a draft weekend trade in 2006, can be a punishing in-line blocker. But he is also deceptively quick for a player of his size (6-foot-2, 288 pounds), and is a very good short-range pass-catcher, and a receiver with a natural gift for creating separation in the "red zone."
Manumaleuna, 27, has appeared in 94 games, with 62 starts, and has 80 receptions for 739 yards and nine touchdowns. His best season was in 2003, with the Rams, when he posted 29 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. In 2006, his first season in San Diego, he had 14 catches for 91 yards and three scores. He played in all 16 games and started seven times, in tandem with Gates in two-tight end sets.
A fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft, Manumaleuna played five seasons with the Rams before being dealt to San Diego for a fourth-round choice in the 2006 draft.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com