Just sit right here for a second, Max. The big boys are playing right now. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
So we all know there isn't a whole lot of NFL news right now that isn't associated with the labor dispute, but that doesn't mean that teams aren't ready to go for the moment that the doors unlock and free agency opens. I'm fairly positive that the Chargers have their list of "needs" and "wants."
Echoing the article in which I made the case for the Chargers to keep Vincent Jackson, you may have guessed by the title of this article who this one is going to be about, because I know you're a smart fan already since you are here at BFTB in the first place.
In case you don't know the history of Kevin Burnett, I'll briefly sum it up here then dive in deeper after the jump. Burnett attended the University of Tennessee and was recruited as a safety, but was moved to linebacker by his sophomore year. This move enable him to bring athleticism to the linebacker position that by his senior year enabled him to earn 120 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 INT in his final season, although he had been known to be injury prone. Kevin Burnett was then drafted by Dallas in the 2nd round of the 2005 NFL draft at pick number 42. Burnett spent the next 4 seasons in Dallas largely as a backup (only starting 4 games), suffered numerous injuries, and never achieved more than 53 tackles in any given season. He was eventually released from Dallas after a lackluster career there and the Chargers signed him to a 2 year contract in 2011. After the jump, I'll show you what Burnett has done in San Diego.After being with the Chargers for only 2 seasons, Kevin Burnett has shown what he can do when he is healthy. He struggled a bit in his first year in 2009, but showed promise when playing in only 11 games (7 starts), he amassed 66 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He was finally able to put together a full season in 2010 (16 starts) and showed what he can really do at the ILB position: 95 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 FF, 2 INT. He is finally fulfilling his potential that Dallas saw in him when they drafted him with the #42 overall pick. So that's his history, now why should the Chargers re-sign him?
No other options
Here are the Chargers ILB's currently under contract:
Donald Butler - returning from a ruptured Achilles and hasn't played a single down in the NFL
James Holt - signed a contract just before the lockout, has been primarily a special teamer.
To my knowledge that's it (but please correct me if there are more). I'll add one more from the recent draft even though he's not under contract yet:
Jonas Mouton - rookie, slated to contribute as a special teamer immediately.
It's a pretty bleak situation. Holt has played in 12 games in 2 seasons, tallying 12 total tackles. The other two guys haven't taken a single snap in the NFL. Yikes, that's scary.
All signs appear to be pointing to Stephen Cooper leaving in free agency. He's one of the smartest players in the NFL (as attested to by Ron Rivera), and I wouldn't be surprised to see him follow Rivera to Carolina to act as an on-field coach for a couple seasons.
If Cooper is leaving, it's mandatory that we keep Burnett around. Especially with an abbreviated offseason due to the lockout, there is no way that we can rely on the youngsters listed above to step in and contribute immediately as starters. We absolutely need to keep Burnett and maybe even sign another veteran (like Spikes) to add insurance in case the younger players aren't ready to go when football resumes.
According to Football Outsider's Article, he was among the top 16 LB's in defeats last season. He had 27 defeats. In case you don't know what that means, he had 27 plays that fit into one of the following categories:
- causes a turnover
- causes a loss of yardage
- stops conversion on third or fourth down
He ranked 9th on Football Outsider's ranking for pass defeats. He had 19 pass defeats and 8 run defeats. He was by far our best ILB in coverage, and I would argue one of the best LB's last season, period (although Shaun Phillips was very close behind with 24 total defeats).
I would honestly like to keep going on making this case, but it was actually fairly easy. Burnett hasn't caused much drama since coming to SD (although he may have rocked the boat a little with his comments about Goodell here), and he's been a solid (if not spectacular at times) contributor on defense. His only knock is that his past has shown him to be injury prone, although he managed to put together a full season in 2010. He's a really good player, and we don't have anyone else on the roster ready to step in, we gotta keep him. 'Nuff said.