With as excited as certain people are getting over them, I thought it might me a good idea to break down who is available in New York, why they're available and if the Chargers might be interested.
Why is He Available?: Osi is unhappy with his contract. He has two years left on it (at $3.125 mil and $3.975 mil), but is bringing up his Giants counterparts were recently released as a reason for a new contract. It's not a new line of thinking. In a nutshell, Osi wants to be paid now what he's worth now instead of being paid now what he was worth six years ago when he signed the contract.
Umenyiora did the right thing, going to GM Jerry Reese last season and asking for a new contract. Jerry made him a promise that before the 2011 season began, Osi would either have a new deal or would be traded to a team that could provide one for him. The Giants have been unable to provide a new deal, mainly because they had to cut seemingly half of their team just to get down to the salary cap., and (after a legal staredown with Osi) are allowing the 2-time Pro Bowler to find a trading partner for them.
Would the Chargers be Interested?: Yes. Even Will Brinson from CBS Sports has reported that the Chargers are one of five teams that have contacted the Giants about what it might cost to get the pass-rusher. It has also been widely reported that A.J. Smith wanted Osi as part of the Eli Manning trade, but eventually settled for a first-rounder the following season (which became Shawne Merriman). That means him and his scouting department like what they see from Umenyiora, and think he'd be effective as a 3-4 OLB.
In terms of size, which needs to be brought up when you're considering a DE that would have to move to OLB, Umenyiora is almost exactly the same as Shaun Phillips. They're also roughly the same age, and have both been productive players throughout their careers (Umenyiora's biennial injury issues being the only difference, and those could be blamed on the more physical DE position). Let's compare figures real quick...
Shaun Phillips (2010): 55 tackles, 11 sacks, 1 interception (1 TD), 7 defended passes, 1 fumble recovery
Osi Umenyiora (2010): 48 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 defended passes, 10 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
I'll simplify the point I'm making: Osi Umenyiora being brought to the Chargers would be like having Shaun Phillips attacking the QB from both the right and left side. Phillips also has only two years left on his deal, but is slightly higher-paid than Osi ($3.9 and $4.4 mil). To get Osi, the Chargers would most-likely have to part with a 3rd-round-or-higher draft pick along with giving Umenyiora the deal he's looking for (somewhere around 5-6 years at $12 mil per). Whether they have the money to do that, I don't know. Whether that would mean Phillips is gone after his contract is up, I have no clue. Whether it would prevent the team from signing VIncent Jackson next season, I couldn't tell you. All I can say is that that is a lot of money. There is a school of thought, if it changes anything, that the Giants will eventually come down on their demands and accept a 4th or 5th round pick instead.
Why is He Available?: Cotchery is coming off of offseason back surgery, after playing through back problems for a few years, and is again lined up to be the number 3 WR on the Jets roster after they signed Santonio Holmes to a new deal and brought in Plaxico Burress to play on the other side of the field. Like the Giants, and many other teams around the NFL, the Jets are struggling to get under the salary cap (even asking LaDainian Tomlinson to take a pay cut from $3.5 mil to $1 mil for this season) and have decided that Cotchery is a good place to start cutting cost.
The Jets are shopping around Cotchery, but the understanding is that he would most likely be cut in training camp if he were to stay with the team. The situation isn't unlike Patrick Crayton's last year, when the Chargers traded a conditional 7th round pick (it would've been a 6th if he had caught 40 passes last year) to the Cowboys for their disgruntled receiver. Crayton is slated to be the #2 WR in the Chargers offense this year, but faces some injury concerns. Behind him on the depth chart are a 2nd-year undrafted free agent (Seyi Ajirotutu) and a rookie 3rd round pick (Vincent Brown).
Would the Chargers be Interested?: Yes. As stated above, and in my position battles post yesterday, both the starting OLB spot and the WR3 spot are up for grabs on this Chargers team. That's the only reason these guys are being discussed as possibilities.
Cotchery, who played all four of his seasons at NC State with Philip Rivers as his QB, has two years left on his contract ($1.8 mil and $2 mil). This is important because both Vincent Jackson and Patrick Crayton are facing unrestricted free agency next offseason, and Crayton is three years older than Cotchery. Outside of that fact, the two players are not dissimilar from each other, putting up good numbers in seasons where they were asked to start and doing the same when asked to play the slot. Both guys have served as Punt Returners for their respective teams and have been solid at that task as well.
A trade for Cotchery accomplishes a few things. One, it's injury insurance for Jackson and Crayton. Two, it's free agency insurance for at least Crayton next season. Three, reunites The PR Machine with his favorite target from college (and a seemingly great guy based off how much charity work he does with his foundation). Four, it essentially replaces Malcom Floyd's production without having to sign Floyd to a risky long-term/big-money deal. Five, and this goes double for the Umenyiora deal, it says to the rest of the league "We're not going to risk filling an important role with an unknown this year. We're now pushing all of our chips to the center of the table. The division is ours, the championship is in our sights."