Kerry Rhodes turned 31 years old last month. According to Pro Football Focus, he was fourth best Safety in the entire league last season (trailing Jairus Byrd, Eric Weddle and Reshad Jones). With the 2012 Arizona Cardinals, Rhodes forced 6 turnovers (4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles) and picked up 1 sack to go with his 58 tackles in 15 games. It was an average season for Rhodes, who has been among the league's top Safeties since being drafted by the New York Jets in 2005.
Why he's available
Rhodes let his contract expire after last season. With that type of performance, at that age, he was perfectly lined up to get "the big contract" that would go on to define his entire career and legacy. The problem is, no offers came in. Kerry Rhodes has been blacklisted by the NFL.
Why? Well, there's some suspicions that Kerry might be gay. Does that make him a bad football player? Obviously not. Would that cause locker room controversy? Possibly, in a dysfunctional locker room, but I doubt the Chargers players or coaching staff would care any more than they've cared about Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend hoax (which has been a complete non-issue).
Locker room distraction?
Should it matter to us, the fans, if Kerry Rhodes is or isn't gay? No, but it shouldn't matter that Philip Rivers has a litter of children and yet, for some, that's a bigger issue than anything he's ever done on the field. So, yes, some people would talk and try to make a big stink over it. You know what shuts those people up? Winning.
Good coaches take risks. Andy Reid won a lot of games with Michael Vick, and Jeff Garcia (who was also rumored to be gay). There have been rumors about Carson Palmer's sexuality. Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick made it to the Super Bowl with Randy Moss. Belichick has taken the same risk, with Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson and Albert Haynesworth, without it crippling his team in any way. The Oakland Raiders are currently benefiting from taking a chance on Terrelle Pryor, the same way the Arizona Cardinals are benefiting from drafting Tyrann Mathieu. All of the players listed above were "locker room distractions" that ended up not distracting anyone once they had a strong Head Coach.
Why he's needed
Have you seen the San Diego Chargers secondary?
Marcus Gilchrist, who has been playing more like the team's Free Safety (deep zone coverage) and allowing Eric Weddle to play more like the team's Strong Safety (in the box, man coverage), has been terrible. The team could live with all of the growing pains and hope that Gilchrist gets it figured out some time soon, but there's no guarantee that he ever will.
On top of that, Gilchrist is needed as a cornerback. Derek Cox and Shareece Wright has been struggling, and both are injury risks, but neither has been as bad as Richard Marshall. The idea of playing the Denver Broncos, who always play with three or four WRs on the field, has to terrify John Pagano right now. Gilchrist may not have been the world's best nickel cornerback, but he's an improvement over Richard Marshall and a much better back-up plan in case of an injury there.
Kerry Rhodes would help the pass-rush and run defense by allowing Weddle to continue playing in the box, he would help the cornerbacks by providing greatly-improved deep zone coverage, and he would improve the secondary's depth by allowing Marcus Gilchrist to slide back into his old job at nickel corner.
Are we sure that he's been staying in shape?
Looks good to me.
Can the Chargers afford him?
Yes and no.
If there were no gay rumors, and no blacklisting, could the Chargers afford Kerry Rhodes at the market rate? Hell no. You're talking $7 million plus per year and a long-term deal. San Diego currently has about $5.4 million in cap space for this season.
The other question is, can Kerry Rhodes afford to turn down an offer? From what has been reported, he's not getting tryouts or even phone calls at this point. The only thing that's going to kick start his career is for him to get back on the field and show everyone how good he (still) is, and that he can play with an NFL team without it affecting team chemistry.
Tom Telesco could be nice and offer Kerry something in the ballpark of $2 million per year for two years, and get himself a hell of a bargain. He could probably go as low as the veteran minimum ($810k) in a one year deal and Rhodes would still jump at the opportunity. For a team that is dangerously thin at cornerback and struggling through some truly terrible safety play by a former cornerback, there's no downside at all.
Go get him, Tom. Make a believer out of all of us. Do a quick cost risk benefit analysis, wait for the computer to start spitting out money at you, and give John Pagano the weapon he needs to make the 2013 Chargers defense great.
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