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Chargers LB Foley signs three-year extension

SAN DIEGO (March 16, 2005) -- Outside linebacker Steve Foley made such an impact in his first season with the San Diego Chargers that they signed him to a three-year contract extension through 2009.

Foley had 10 sacks last season, the most by a Chargers linebacker since Billy Ray Smith had 11 in 1986.

"They weren't obligated to do anything because I still had two years left on my three-year deal, so I'm really excited," Foley said.

"He's a heck of a football player, so we try to keep our own," general manager A.J. Smith said.

Foley's deal is the latest move by the AFC West champions to lock up key personnel. Wide receiver Keenan McCardell got a two-year extension through 2007 and a signing bonus on March 9. Smith recently got a three-year contract extension through 2009, and coach Marty Schottenheimer was signed in January to a two-year extension through 2007.

In August, the Chargers made LaDainian Tomlinson the NFL's highest-paid running back with a deal through 2011 worth nearly $60 million.

The Chargers are believed to be working on a long-term deal with tight end Antonio Gates, who capped his standout second NFL season by being named an All-Pro and playing in the Pro Bowl.

The Chargers have been burned by big-money free agents such as David Boston and Marcellus Wiley in recent seasons, so Smith has been going the low-key route since last year.

Foley was among a handful of journeymen free agents Smith signed last spring who contributed to the Chargers' turnaround from the NFL's laughingstock to reaching the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons.

"Our first priority is the draft," Smith said. "The second is, if we've made the right choices and have good players on the team, if they have a few years left on their contract, let's talk to them and see if they want to keep on with the Chargers, before we go buy someone else's players. We want to keep our unrestricted (free agent) list as small as possible."

In March 2004, Foley signed a $4 million, three-year deal with a $1.25 million signing bonus.

He then had a breakout year as he helped the Chargers break in a new 3-4 defense under coordinator Wade Phillips.

Foley's team- and career-high 10 sacks included three against Peyton Manning at Indianapolis on Dec. 26 in a game the Chargers lost in overtime.

Foley also had career highs with two interceptions, five forced fumbles and 12 deflections. His 65 tackles left him just one shy of his career high. He also tied his career high with two fumble recoveries.

"Oh, man, the 3-4 defense is tough," Foley said. "From what I was told, it takes a lot of guys, especially the younger guys, at least two years before they're really comfortable in the defense. Once guys figure out how to play the defense, the whole framework of the defense makes us a better team."

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