general manager Tom Telesco stood outside the door of the visiting locker room at Levi’s Stadium and thanked every player and coach after they had completed their final preseason game Thursday night against San Francisco.
It’s a ritual he undertakes after every game — an opportunity to thank the players who just tried to enact his vision on the football field. It was a nice moment, but some heavier drama lay ahead.
Saturday, Telesco will say goodbye to more than 30 of those hands he shook when the Chargers trim their roster to 53.
To project the final roster, consider the puzzle Telesco faces. Filling out a team requires scrutinization of salaries, positional balance, injury recovery times and at dozens of other factors.
Then there’s the issue of the practice squad — a group of 10 players, primarily rookies and undrafted free agents. To sign a player to the practice squad, he must clear waivers, which gives every other team a chance to add him to their 53-man roster first.
And, in an even crueler twist to those players on the bubble, you can make the team Saturday and quickly find yourself waived by Sunday. With more than 1,000 players set to become free agents Saturday, Telesco and his staff will be on the lookout for players who might fit the roster better than the ones who survived final cuts.
Then in Week 2, the Chargers will need to clear a spot when defensive lineman Tenny Palepoi returns from suspension, leading to another cut. And, they’ll have to do it again when Max Tuerk comes back in Week 5 if they want Tuerk on the active roster.
It’s a puzzle that’s never fully solved, with the pieces constantly changing. And it’s nearly impossible to put it together, but here’s a projected 53-man roster:
Quarterback (3): Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens, Cardale Jones. Running back (4): Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver, Austin Ekeler, . Fullback (1): Derek Watt. Wide receiver (5): Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, , , Geremy Davis. Tight end (4): Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Sean Culkin, . Offensive line (8): , , Spencer Pulley, , , , Dan Feeney, Tyreek Burwell.
Defensive line (9): Joey Bosa, , , , Chris McCain, Darius Philon, Damion Square, Isaac Rochelle, Jeremiah Attaochu. Linebacker (6): Jatavis Brown, Kyle Emanuel, , Nick Dzubnar, Nigel Harris, James Onwualu. Cornerback (5): , Jason Verrett, Trevor Williams, Desmond King, Craig Mager. Safety (5): Jahleel Addae, Tre Boston, Adrian Phillips, , Rayshawn Jenkins. Special teams (3): Josh Lambo (kicker), Drew Kaser (punter), (long snapper).
Injured/suspended: LB Denzel Perryman (IR), WR Mike Williams (PUP), OL Max Tuerk (four-game suspension), DL Tenny Palepoi (one-game suspension).
Follow Dan Woike on Twitter