Tales from an Uninformed Armchair GM (Restricted Free Agents)

In this week's column we are going to look at the restricted free agents the Chargers currently have on their roster.  I know some people are not totally clear as to what a restricted free agent is so here is the definition:

Typically restricted free agents are players whose current contract has expired and have only accrued three years of NFL experience.  However, the current NFL CBA states that in the event of an uncapped year the restricted free agency period of a players career will be extend two additional seasons.

Like an unrestricted free agent they are free to negotiate with any team however their current team has the right to match any offer and if they do so they retain the rights to the player. Failure to meet the offer means the player is awarded to the new team but the new team must give the players original team compensation in the form of draft picks.  The compensatory draft picks awarded to the players original team is based upon the tender the team placed on the player before the start of NFL free agency (March 5).

Here's the breakdown of tender levels for third, fourth and fifth-year players.

Tenders for RFAs with three years experience
Original draft pick tender (round in which player was selected) - $1.101M
Second-round tender - $1.684M
First-round tender - $2.396M
First and third-round tender - $3.043M

Tenders for RFAs with four years experience
Original draft pick tender - $1.176M
Second-round tender - $1.759M
First-round tender - $2.521M
First and third-round tender - $3.168M

Tenders for RFAs with five years experience
Original draft pick tender - $1.226M
Second-round tender - $1.849M
First-round tender - $2.621M
First and third-round tender - $3.268M

On the other side of the jump I analyze the current Charger restricted free agents and give my opinion as to what the Bolts should do with them.

RT Jeromey Clary (3 years) - With Clary going down with a knee injury at the end of the season I don't think many teams would be willing to risk a draft pick or a long term contract on him, therefore I think this is a pretty easy decision.

Recommendation: Original Round Tender ($1.10 mil)

 

 

ILB Tim Dobbins (4 years) - Dobbins would be a nice player to keep around, he helps out on special teams and while I don't think he is really a starter at ILB he can definitely hold down the fort if someone goes down.

Recommendation: Original Round Tender ($1.2 mil)

 

DT Antonio Garay (4 years) - Antonio who?  Garay was brought in after Charger defensive line men started to drop like TD passes thrown to Braylon Edwards.  Garay has bounced around the NFL a bit as a backup DL but never really found a home or much playing time at any of his stops and I don't think San Diego will much different.

Recommendation:  No Tender

 

C Eric Ghiaciuc (5 Years) - Ghiaciuc started 16 games for the Bengals in 2008 and signed with the Chiefs at the start of the 2009 season but was cut before the season began.  The Bolts signed Ghiaciuc off the street after Mruczkowski went down but he fortunately never saw field as a Charger.  If Mruczkowski is healthy to start the 2010 season there really is no reason to keep Ghiaciuc on the roster.

Recommendation:  No Tender

 

WR Malcom Floyd (4 Years) - Floyd is a great receiver and will probably be sought out by several other clubs.  The Chargers really don't have another receiver on their roster who can slide into the #2 spot and perform consistently at a high level.  It's kind of a no brainer that the Chargers have to keep Floyd on the 2010 roster, especially if it's only for one year and comes with a cheap price tag.  I would love to see the bolts use Floyds RFA status as leverage to work out a long-term deal but who knows what kind of money he is looking for especially since Floyd is creeping up to the wrong side of 30.

Recommendation: First Round Tender ($2.52 mil)

 

OLB Marques Harris (5 Years) - I always liked Harris so I was a little surprised last season when the Chargers released him and surprised again when the 49ers released him during the 2009 season.  I would love to see the Chargers keep Harris around for the 2010 season however, I don't see a lot of teams scurrying to their phones to call his agent so I don't see a reason to tender him.

Recommendation: No Tender, try and sign to a league minimum contract.

 

WR Vincent Jackson (5 Years) - Jackson is a pro-bowler and the most efficient WR in the NFL so this is an easy call.  Like Floyd I would love to see the Bolts use Jackson's extra year of RFA status as leverage and work out a long-term deal with him but unfortunately I just don't see the Chargers handing out a big long-term deal before all this CBA crap is resolved.

Recommendation: First and Third Round Tender ($3.27 mil)

 

DL Travis Johnson (5 years) - Johnson is a former first round pick who showed some promise in Huston but never materialized into the star player some thought he would be.  In August the Chargers sent a conditional sixth round pick to the Texans to obtain Johnson's services hoping that he could replace the injured Ryon Bingham.  Johnson had a somewhat forgettable season making 16 tackles in the 13 games he played in.  I don't think it would be a terrible idea to keep Johnson on the roster as a backup D-Linemen (which it seems you can never have enough of) but I don't think the Bolts need to worry about offering him a tender.

Recommendation: No Tender, try and sign to a one year contract.

 

OT Marcus McNeill (4 Years) - This is a no brainer, McNeill is a former pro-bowler and let's face it proven NFL LT's don't grow on trees.   Like both Floyd and Jackson I would love to see the Bolts use McNeill's extra year of RFA status as leverage and work out a long-term deal with him.

Recommendation: First and Third Round Tender ($3.17 mil)

 

OLB Shawne Merriman (5 Years) - The NFL rules regarding restricted free agents states that any tender offered to a player must be at least a 10% increase over the player's salary the previous season.  Merriman made $2.27 mil in the last season of his rookie contract, meaning that any tender the Chargers offer him must be worth at least $2.5 mil.  Regardless of what the Chargers decide to do with Merriman in the long run it would be pointless to use anything other than the first round tender on him since they will be forced to pay him at least $2.5 mil with any tender they offer.

Recommendation: First Round Tender ($2.62 mil)

 

LB Dontarrious Thomas (5 Years) - Thomas was the Vikings 2nd round draft pick in 2004.  After having some initial success in his rookie season his production quickly tapered off to the point where  he found himself playing for the California Redwoods (UFL) to start the 2009 season.  Thomas was signed by the Chargers in January after Holt was placed on IR.  Thomas never saw the field as a Charger and unfortunately I don't believe he ever will.

Recommendation:  No Tender

 

RB Darren Sproles (5 Years) - Because the Chargers placed their franchise tag on Sproles last season his RFA status is a little more complicated than most.  As mentioned with Merriman's situation all restricted free agent tenders must be at least a 10% increase over the players salary the previous season, under the Chargers franchise tag in 09 Sproles made $6.63 mil, meaning that any tender offered to him must be worth at least $7.29 mil.  This is clearly not an option for a 3rd down back/kick returner, I would really like to see the Chargers work out a 3 year deal with Sproles which is something I will look at in next week's column.

Recommendation:  TBD

 

QB Charlie Whitehurst (4 Years) - I think we all love Chuck and while no one in the league rocks a better beard or holds a clip board better than Chuck I just can't see the Chargers offering a million dollar tender to their 3rd sting QB.

Recommendation:  No Tender

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