Is Stephen Cooper Done in San Diego?

SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 22: Linebacker Stephen Cooper #54 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after breaking up a third down pass attempt in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22 2010 in San Diego California. The Chargers won 35-14. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Rise and shine. It's Monday morning and we're back to covering the slivers of Chargers news that come in during the offseason. This week will include lots of CBA discussion, a possible official announcement on the Bob Sanders signing, and....I don't know. A bunch of other stuff. Let's start with a blog post Kevin Acee did over the weekend:

His run is likely over. It hasn't been made official, but he knows it.

"I think I'm going to have an opportunity to test the market," Cooper said Saturday.

Cooper has been rehabbing two sprained knees, which he played through for 11 games in 2010, including a masterful performance in the Chargers' Nov. 28 victory at Indianapolis. He said he is "excited" for the opportunity.


The funny thing is, it would appear I simply got lazy on my stance on Stephen Cooper. Before 2010 I thought he had a chance to lose his job. When he missed a few games and Brandon Siler played excellent in his spot, I was sure that Cooper was gone after the season. Then the season ended and many people seem convinced that "the Chargers have to bring Coop back, especially with Ron Rivera leaving." I....guess that makes sense....and who am I to stand and say "Cooper's gone for sure!" when nobody seems to agree?

Anyway, Acee's short post reminded me of the main reasons Cooper couldn't possibly stay.

  1. He's been "banged up" to the point that he's either missed games or played poorly for at least two seasons now. He'll be 32 by time the 2011 season rolls around, so it would certainly seem like giving him the contract the market will demand for him (2-3 years, a few million each season) would be an unwise investment.
  2. Here's the one nobody is talking about. Remember when Shawne Merriman was great? Then he got popped for a performance-enhancing substance, and since has struggled to get to that same level of performance and healthy. Remember when the exact same thing happened with Stephen Cooper, and nobody wanted to talk about it?
  3. The Chargers seem to be making Kevin Burnett, who took over play-calling duties last year and was generally excellent all season, a priority to bring back. Also, it looks like Brandon Siler (despite having a 7th round RFA tag on him) isn't going anywhere. With Donald Butler returning in 2011, and the Chargers eager to get him into the starter's job, it would appear there's not much room on this roster for anything more than a 3rd or 4th backup ILB (which could go to Antwan Applewhite or a rookie, if I'm guessing). Cooper doesn't need to accept a backup spot yet.

So, yeah, I don't think Cooper is wrong in thinking that he's gone. The problem for him is that I don't know that he's a good fit for Ron Rivera's new defense, spearheaded by Sean McDermott and most-likely copying the Eagles' 4-3 blitzing scheme. Cooper is going to have to try and land on a team that's looking for a veteran presence in the inside of their 3-4 defense. The Chiefs would be a good spot for him, and scary for the Chargers.

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