Happy Monday everybody. I hope you all enjoyed your first non-football weekend in about 5 months and are ready to get a jump on the offseason. I have a theory that I'd like to share with you, which will undoubtedly be proven wrong by somebody in the comments, that might make the next six months a lot more fun for all of us.
You know how the Chargers (A.J. Smith, really) are typically boring in the offseason? They don't sign many free-agents and stay away from the big names. They don't go after glamor picks in the draft. They typically spend their offseason renegotiating contracts and signing certain players to extensions. What a boring time to be a Bolts fan. My theory is that the 2010 offseason may be one of the most entertaining ones in recent history because of the ramifications of there not being a new CBA agreement in place between the players and owners.
Follow me here. Owners are going to be completely unwilling to give long-term contracts to any free agent that is not "elite" this offseason. Why? Because they have no idea what the salary cap situation is going to be in 2012 and beyond. Whereas battles between teams for free agents in the past mostly revolved around "Who was willing to pay the most money and risk getting the least value?", it has now added the question of "Who is willing to pay the most money and possibly screw their entire team up in two years?" In addition to not knowing what the salary cap will be, or if there will even be one, teams have no idea what the penalties for going over the salary cap will be in the future as well. That'll keep guys like Daniel Snyder from saying "Screw it" and signing free agents to big contracts.
So why does this make for a more entertaining offseason for the Chargers? Because while A.J. Smith has shown to be shy about signing free agents, he is one of the best and most frequent traders amongst NFL GMs. Almost nobody values the draft and relatively unknown players more than Smith, and in trades he can get rid of a headache or a soon-to-be-rich player and get picks and/or unknown players with potential in return. That not only makes his cap situation easier (younger players get less money, typically), but it gives him a chance to do what he loves to do: scout for talent.
Here's a list of the Chargers Unrestricted Free Agents, Restricted Free Agents and Exclusive Rights Free Agents for this offseason.
Let's break down a couple of possible scenarios by position.
OLB: Two words: Joey Porter. In the past I thought it'd be silly to trade to get him, because you'd probably be giving up equal value to get him and not really gaining anything. Now that he's been released though, and is pining to play for a team on or near the west coast, it makes total sense.
Joey, even at 32, is every bit as good as Shawne Merriman is right now. He may only have a year or two left, but it's not like the Chargers are even thinking about signing Merriman to a long-term deal. What the Chargers could do is slap a 1st round tender or even a 1st & 3rd on Merriman and then starting fielding calls. Let it be known that you'd accept a 2nd & and a 5th from the right team (outside the division, high picks, etc.). I'd be willing to bet that somebody like San Francisco or Cleveland would be willing to pay that. Now what you've done is replaced Shawne Merriman (who may or may not be a headache in the upcoming season due to his contract situation) with Joey Porter and two valuable draft picks. You've also probably saved yourself a little money and possibly a headache. A OLB group of Porter, Shaun Phillips, Larry English, Jyles Tucker, Antwan Applewhite and/or Marques Harris is better than the one they fielded in 2009.
WR: The rumors about the Dolphins' love for Vincent Jackson are already swirling. Hey, I love what VJ does for the offense as much as the next guy, but A.J. Smith can get back more than what Jackson is probably worth....you have to make that move. Here's a few reasons why it would make sense to start talking trade with Miami:
-Depth. I know a lot of people don't want to hear it, but Buster Davis is talented. Every time he steps on the field, he runs good routes and makes tough catches. His issue up until this post has been about health, not about talent. It's the same issue that Malcom Floyd had coming into the 2009 season.
Buster (24) is two years younger than Vincent Jackson (26), but will have a hard time getting time on the field if VJ, Floyd and Legedu Naanee are all in front of him next year. The team knows he has talent, and they know they're paying him good money....they would love to see results. My theory is that the team essentially gave Buster a year off to give him confidence and to get fully healthy....during that Redskins game he certainly showed off both.
I'm not saying Buster should take over the #1 WR spot. Far from it. I just think a WR group of Floyd, Naanee and Davis could be every bit as good as Jackson, Floyd and Naanee were in 2009. Also, recent history has shown that it's the QBs that make the passing game and not necessarily the WRs, which is why players like Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon have become well-known by NFL fans.
-Value. You could argue that Vincent Jackson's value will never be higher than it is right now. There's no guarantee that Antonio Gates (29) and Malcom Floyd (28) will be as good next year as they were this year. If the Chargers get a successful running game working in 2010, that's less balls coming VJ's way and possibly less TDs as well. Jackson just went through a season where him and the QB were the centerpiece of the offense, and that may not happen again. Also, there's another big reason that VJ's value may be dropping soon....
-Suspension/Trouble. Oh boy. I'm not going to really dive into this, but we all know that A.J. Smith keeps a folder on each player that's filled with issues that they've had off-the-field. Vincent Jackson's second DUI case is coming up this offseason, and by now we've all heard about him getting handcuffed for driving with an expired license on his way to the Jets playoff game. Also, we can't ignore the silly personal foul penalty that he got in the game after kicking the challenge flag back at Rex Ryan.
In a nutshell, Vincent Jackson has been a constant source of off-the-field trouble (and it gets worse during the playoffs, apparently) and is most likely facing a suspension at the beginning of the 2010 season. Do the Chargers, a team that is trying to break the habit of getting off to slow starts each season under Norv Turner, really need to be missing their offense's biggest weapon for the start of the season....just to have to worry about him getting in trouble come playoff time again?
So, the Dolphins are in love with Jackson, huh? I have an idea that A.J. Smith might like. Why not offer Miami Vincent Jackson in exchange for Ted Ginn Jr. and a 2nd round draft pick? Ginn would serve to replace Darren Sproles' kickoff returns, as well as providing WR depth. In the offense the Dolphins run, it's not as if he'd be getting any more snaps than he'd get here. The Chargers could then have Floyd/Naanee/Davis as the main WRs and let Buster return punts (which he's always had a knack for). They'd also have three 2nd round picks (probably the best value/dollar round) to play with. They could even use those picks to move up and get essentially any player they wanted.
I like both of these ideas. Replace Merriman with Porter, add two picks. Replace Jackson with Ginn, add another pick. Save a ton of money in the process if you want to try to lure in Chester Taylor. Isn't this essentially what the Patriots did during last years draft that had everybody raving about how smart they were? Smart teams buy low and sell high, and that's exactly what the Chargers would be doing. I think it's worth looking into.