Yesterday (July 15) marked the deadline to sign all franchise tagged players to multi-year contracts and while Matt Cassel and Terrell Suggs have found their homes for the better part of the next decade, where Darren Sproles will call home after the 2009 season is still a question mark. After signing the Chargers franchise tender a week after the NFL draft in late April Sproles is guaranteed to make $6.621 million during the 2009 season and will be granted his unrestricted free agency at seasons end. With names like Rivers, Merriman, McNeil and Jackson all becoming unrestricted free agents after the 2009 season (assuming a CBA can be agreed upon) there is probably little chance that Sproles will be offered the teams franchise tag for a second straight year most likely ending the Darren Sproles era in San Diego.
I understand that Sproles will probably be an integral part of both the Chargers offence and special teams this year and will be a very important piece to the Super Bowl puzzle (especially if LTs can’t stay healthy) but there are really two things about this move or lack there of that really bother me:
Assuming the Chargers will be too busy in the off-season trying to sign Rivers, Merriman, Jackson and McNeil that they let Sproles slip off to another team, it will be the third player (Brees and Turner being the other two) AJ will have let walk out the door in their prime instead of trading them at the highest point in their Charger careers.
The Chargers will be paying their 3rd down back and kick-returner $6.621 million in 2009 which is almost $3 million more (excluding signing bonus) than what LT will make in 2009.
Sproles was obviously not traded this off-season because the Chargers have a great shot at representing the AFC in the Super Bowl this up coming February and the Chargers need a back-up plan just in case LT is unable to play in his third straight post season. If the Chargers make it to the Super Bowl all will obviously be forgotten but if they don’t Sproles will join Drew Brees and Michael Turner as yet another diamond in the rough that AJ could not capitalize on.