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NFL notebook

Chargers extend GM Smith's contract by 5 years

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Associated Press / January 2, 2008

After building the San Diego Chargers into a consistent playoff contender - if not yet a postseason success - general manager A.J. Smith received a five-year contract extension yesterday that will keep him with the team through 2014.

Details weren't announced, but various reports said the extension was worth $11 million.

Smith didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Team president Dean Spanos was traveling and unavailable for comment, his secretary said.

Smith's previous contract was due to expire following the 2009 season. He was promoted in April 2003 after John Butler died of cancer.

The Chargers won the AFC West for the third time in four seasons under Smith. They'll try to break a four-game postseason losing streak dating to January 1995 when they host the Tennessee Titans Sunday in the wild-card round. Two of those playoff losses have come on Smith's watch.

Although it was Butler who drafted star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Smith has proven to be a strong talent evaluator by drafting star players such as outside linebacker Shawne Merriman and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

He's also signed undrafted players who developed into Pro Bowlers, most notably tight end Antonio Gates, a three-time All-Pro. Two other free agent pickups, guard Kris Dielman and special teams player Kassim Osgood, have developed into Pro Bowlers.

Smith is probably best known for holding his ground when Eli Manning's representatives told the Chargers just before the 2004 draft he 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 Merriman the following year.

The Chargers are 50-30 under Smith, but 0-2 in the postseason.

Smith became involved in a front-office soap opera when his relationship with coach Marty Schottenheimer soured to the point that the two men didn't talk to each other.

Schottenheimer was fired by Spanos in February, a month after the top-seeded Chargers fell apart in their playoff opener, a shocking 24-21 loss to the Patriots.

The Chargers also lost to the New York Jets in overtime in the 2004 wild-card round, also under Schottenheimer.

Anderson talk

The Cleveland Browns say they plan on re-signing restricted free agent quarterback Derek Anderson, but coach Romeo Crennel says that doesn't mean the team won't entertain offers. "If anybody is interested in him, we'll just have to see how it goes," Crennel told ESPN.com. "Sometimes people can make you an offer and you can say, 'No, I think I'm going to stay with what I got.' Sometimes they make you an offer and you say, 'Oooohhh.' " The Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing an unnamed source, reported that the Browns' current plan is for Anderson to be on the 2008 roster. The team can tender him a $2.5 million deal for next year. If another club offers Anderson a better deal, the Browns can either match it or receive first- and third-round draft picks from that team as compensation. The Browns have several options with Anderson, who passed for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns but also had 19 interceptions. Complicating matters is that Brady Quinn also is on the roster and the Browns gave up their 2008 first-round draft pick to Dallas to get him . . . Broncos offensive left tackle Matt Lepsis has told coach Mike Shanahan he's retiring. Lepsis, who turns 34 this month, acknowledged his play slipped in his 11th season after returning from ACL surgery on his right knee. The operation ended his 2006 season shortly after he signed a four-year, $25 million contract extension. "Mike would call me out for not playing very well, and I had to agree with him," Lepsis told The Denver Post. "I didn't want to go make all that money and not give the team what I was supposed to."

Taylor tirade

Jaguars running back Fred Taylor isn't worried as much about the Pittsburgh Steelers' home-field advantage as he is their bad field. Taylor chided the Steelers for their substandard grass field in a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters. "That field is terrible," Taylor said. "That's a lawsuit pending. That's ridiculous." He suggested the Steelers spend $1 million on artificial turf to improve one of the NFL's worst playing surfaces. The Jaguars play an AFC wild-card game in Pittsburgh Saturday night, their second visit there in less than a month. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seemed pleased to hear of Taylor's comments, if only because they suggest the field might prove a distraction to the Jaguars. "Sure it is [an advantage], if he feels that way," Tomlin said. "I don't know anybody on our team that hates our field."

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