The Ryan Leaf Award is handed out annually to the most overpaid San Diego Charger player from the previous season. The award was named after Ryan Leaf after he won the award for four consecutive seasons. The nominees are chosen after comparing the performance of each player on the Chargers roster against his cap value for that season. The winner is chosen by the fans.
There were a lot of candidates for the Ryan Leaf Award from the 2008 season. The Chargers seaon of turmoil included a mid-season switch in defensive coordinators, a seaon-long injury to arguably the most talented defensive player on the roster and a slew of tough guys who tried to play the season through injury. Let's give you a run down of each of the candidates before letting you choose this year's winner.
Chris Chambers, WR - Chambers was traded from the Dolphins to the Chargers in 2007 to help balance the offense, taking pressure off of Vincent Jackson. He also provided veteran leadership amongst the receivers and showed the intelligence to make big play after big play through the second part of the year and into the playoffs. In 2008, Chambers struggled with injuries and only managed to start 9 regular season games. He failed to match his half-year output of 2007, catching the ball only 33 times for 462 yards.
Cap Value: $5,853,840
Others at this position: Randy Moss - $6,006,720, Reggie Wayne - $6,660,000, Steve Smith - $5,874,210, Anquan Boldin $4,500,960
Luis Castillo, DE - Castillo turned in a dream season in 2006, as a 23-year-old second-year player, making the Chargers and their fans very optimistic about his future. He seemed like he was everything you'd want in a 3-4 DE: big, strong, fast and ferocious. Plus, he had pass-rushing skills that made our defense even more dynamic. In the two seasons since Castillo has battled injuries. Although he managed to start and play in 15 game in 2008, he was less effective than in seasons past and blamed it on nagging injuries that he was playing through. Last season he collected only 1.5 sacks to go along with 39 tackles and an interception.
Cap Value: $6,989,380
Others at this position: Mario Williams - $6,881,720, Richard Seymour - $6,836,720, Dwight Freeney - $5,752,400, Trevor Pryce - $5,250,240
Matt Wilhelm, ILB - After showing flashes of talent on special teams and during sporadic time on the field, Wilhelm was named the successor to tackling-machine Donnie Edwards in 2007. He had a good first season as the starter, collecting several interceptions and nearly 100 tackles. High hopes of Chargers fans should've carried him into another productive year, but Wilhelm's play seemed to nosedive after a poor performance in the preseason. In 2008 Wilhelm saw time on the field because of a lack of true depth at the inside linebacker position, but he eventually lost his job to run-stopping linebacker Tim Dobbins. His final stat line for the season was 50 tackles, 1 int.
Cap Value: $3,653,960
Others at this position: Mike Vrabel - $4,186,840, James Farrior - $4,061,150, Bradie James - $3,356,120, Andra Davis - $3,600,000
Jyles Tucker, OLB - Jyles Tucker saw the field sporadically in 2007, until the final game of the year against the Raiders. Playing in place of Shaun Phillips and against one of the worst offensive lines in football, Tucker collected 3 sacks, forced 3 fumbles and jumped on one of those fumbles for a defensive touchdown. He had his way with Oakland and that landed him a big deal in the offseason. In 2008, with Merriman out for the year, Tucker got his chance to impress the coaches and the fans but failed. Shaun Phillips even switched over to ROLB to try and help Tucker, but consistent production from him was nowhere to be seen. In 13 games, Jyles Tucker managed just 5.5 sacks, 37 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.
Cap Value: $3,925,640
Others at this position: Shaun Phillips - $6,637,912, Willie McGinest - $3,666,668, Shawne Merriman - $2,638,580, Greg Ellis - $3,929,800
Clinton Hart, SS - Clinton's story is similar to Wilhelm's. In 2007 the Chargers let go of Terrence Kiel, due to some legal issues, and Hart was called upon to take his spot as the starting strong safety. In his first year he was even better than Kiel, racking up 75 tackles, 5 ints and 1 sack. Outside of his age, and a change in the pass rush, there was no reason to think that he would get worse in his second full year as the starter but he did. Before losing his job to Steve Gregory late in the 2008 season, Hart managed 63 tackles but had no interceptions or forced fumbles. As teams exploited his weakness in coverage, Chargers fans watched tight end after tight end put up big numbers against the defense.
Cap Value: $2,865,254
Others at this position: Brian Dawkins - $3,336,454 (2008), Ed Reed - $3,405,240, Gibril Wilson - $2,005,480, Ken Hamlin - $2,105,000
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