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Chargers challenge Cardale Jones, add competition to QB room with Geno Smith signing

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- By signing backup quarterback Geno Smith to a one-year deal on Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers put Cardale Jones on notice that he will have competition for the No. 2 quarterback job during training camp.

"He's a very young player," coach Anthony Lynn said about Jones at the NFL scouting combine. "People forget this guy never lost a college football game. He's 6-foot-5, 260, can move around pretty well and has a strong arm.

"Every day in practice he makes throws that make you shake your head. He's a highly intelligent young man. There's no reason why he couldn't be our future quarterback."

The addition of Smith doesn't mean the Chargers won't select a quarterback in this year's draft. General manager Tom Telesco and the rest of his staff have been doing extensive work on this year's quarterback class.

The Chargers met with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield before his pro day and met with Lamar Jackson after his pro day. Lynn attended the pro days of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, too.

Telesco also watched Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen and Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph play in person last season.

In Smith, the Chargers bring in a player who Lynn is familiar with and who fits his desire to have a mobile quarterback who can threaten the defense with his legs.

"When you have a guy who can move around a little bit like Lamar, you make a defense play 11-on-11," Lynn said about Jackson at the combine. "And sometimes, they think that's not fair. But when the offense can go 11-on-11, that's a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare. That's what he brings to the table."

Lynn spent two seasons with Smith during the 2013 and 2014 campaign when he served as running backs coach for the New York Jets.

Smith backed up Eli Manning last season. He started Dec. 3 when Manning was benched for a week. Manning had been the NFL's active leader in consecutive starts at 210.

Smith was solid, completing 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in a 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, the 27-year-old Smith adds another quarterback to the mix of players competing for a spot on the roster and perhaps serving as an eventual replacement for Philip Rivers.

A 2013 second-round selection by the Jets, Smith never lived up to lofty expectations during his four seasons with the team.

Smith had his share of issues with the Jets. Smith was sucker-punched by linebacker IK Enemkpali, forcing him to spend time on the injured reserve, and he also lost the starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015.

And Smith was benched against the Chargers in 2014 because he missed a meeting the day before the game. He got the meeting time mixed up because they were on the West Coast. Michael Vick started, and the Chargers rolled 31-0.

However, the physical tools are still present for the talented quarterback from West Virginia, and the Chargers provide Smith another opportunity to prove his worth in the league. For his career, Smith has competed 58 percent of his passes, throwing for 6,174 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

The addition of Smith to the quarterback room likely means Rivers' good friend Kellen Clemens, who served as the backup quarterback for four seasons, will not return.

And along with Jones, Smith likely will have additional competition in the quarterback room from this year's draft. The Chargers have not selected a quarterback in the draft during Telesco's tenure since drafting Brad Sorensen in the seventh round of the 2013 draft.