Chargers give Hardwick rich deal


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Jan 22, 2006
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Chargers give Hardwick rich deal

By Kevin Acee
June 17, 2006

The Chargers yesterday made Nick Hardwick one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in team history.

“It's a big compliment,” Hardwick said. “I'm pretty proud. . . . “I'm completely excited. I wanted to be here from the start. I wanted to play my whole career here. It looks like we're doing that.”

Hardwick, a third-round draft pick in 2004, earned the starting job before his rookie season and has started 27 games over his first two seasons.

The new deal, which adds five years to his current contract, includes $5 million in bonuses and averages $3 million over the six seasons.

The Chargers, whose line has been characterized too often in the past decade by massive turnover, have not typically invested a large sum in their offensive front.

The only other Chargers offensive lineman to secure more bonus money was left tackle John Jackson ($5.5 million) in 1998. Jackson's $26.55 million free-agent deal in 1998 was then the richest contract ever awarded to an NFL offensive lineman.

Based on the average potential new money in Hardwick's deal, he will be among the league's highest-paid centers.

A former wrestler, the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Hardwick has already established himself as one of the team's most hard-nosed players. He is an ardent watcher of film and has gained more than 25 pounds this offseason.

“He still hasn't realized all of his potential,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “We think Nick has a great future ahead of him.”

The contract, while rich for a third-year pro, is indicative of the team-friendly deals Smith has been securing with many of his young players. Should Hardwick continue to develop as the Chargers anticipate, his price would only increase.

Of the team's 22 projected starters, 13 are signed through 2008. All but five of those players will be no older than 27 when the season starts.

“Everyone is still pretty young,” Hardwick said. “A.J. is doing a great job by building this nice core.”

Around the league
Kellen Winslow Jr., who returned to the field nearly two years after the Cleveland Browns drafted him, said last year's rehabilitation after a motorcycle accident, gave him time to think.
“I've been working on being humble,” said Winslow.

And while Ben Roethlisberger, who was injured riding his motorcycle on Monday, has pledged to wear a helmet if he rides a motorcycle again, Winslow said he's through with motorcycles.
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