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Should the Chargers Trade Shawne Merriman?

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from Kevin Acee's 9/7 SDUT article:

While Smith wouldn't be able to call up Al Davis and see if the enigmatic (I'm being kind) Raiders owner will give him a first-round pick, as Davis yesterday did to the New England Patriots for Richard Seymour, Smith might take whatever he can get to rid himself of Merriman.

I didn't say this will happen. But I know Smith fairly well, and it could happen.

A lot of San Diego Chargers fans are upset at this idea. I hold myself back from getting upset about it because I know it won't do any good. In reality, the GM runs everything associated with the team. If A.J. Smith thinks the team is better off without Merriman, that's his call. However, if it blows up in his face he risks losing his job. So it's not really up to the fans if Merriman is going to be traded, it's up to the GM if he wants to take that risk. It sounds like he might.

Consider the following things:

  • Shawne's sacks per game went down from 1.4 in 2006 to 0.78 in 2007. I know Chargers fans, myself included, hate to hear people talk about Merriman's production going down after his suspension. However, in the following season his numbers did go down. While it doesn't definitively prove anything, it's not to be ignored.
  • A.J. Smith has a better understanding than we do about Shawne's knee. I'm sure he's talked to team doctors and he's certainly watched Merriman perform during practice. Perhaps he's concerned that during this season Merriman's value could go down due to that knee.
  • Although Shawne says he was doing the right thing, and it would appear he's the one being backed up by the police and eyewitnesses, that doesn't change the fact that he put himself in a bad position one week before the start of the season. Do you think Luis Castillo or Eric Weddle would be out at clubs and having parties that last all night one week before the start of the season? Merriman doesn't seem like he should have a thick file that bothers the GM, until you compare him to the other players that know to keep their life and their parties in control and away from the NFL season.
  • Can you think of another Chargers player that would be judging the Miss USA competition? It's little, seemingly harmless, moves like this that show how eager Shawne is to get his name, and face, in the spotlight. That's essentially the opposite of the type of player A.J. Smith is looking for. He wants somebody who doesn't realize there is a spotlight, and plays the game for his passion and for his team.
  • Does anybody else remember those pictures of him pouring champagne on a girl at the club? It's the guys that have a need to be at the club and be at every big event in their area that end up being trouble. Also, those guys can't just turn that off during the season. After practice, after the game and even sometimes the night before a game these guys can typically be found out on the town having too much fun. Chris McAlister was at one point a Pro Bowl cornerback that the Ravens were wary of signing to a long-term deal strictly because of his "off-the-field hobbies", which were very similar to the hobbies of Merriman.
  • Yes, Merriman is a great defensive player. After his first two seasons I'd say he was on pace to be one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. However, an argument could be made that most successful defenses in the NFL have more to do with the coordinator than the actual players. Especially in an aggressive 3-4 defense where the question is not "How do we stop that guy?" but is "Where's the blitz coming from?" Want proof? Dick LeBeau and the late Jim Johnson. It didn't matter to them who the players were, they were going to confuse the heck out of the QB and find a way to bring pressure. Remember, James Harrison was a nobody until LeBeau decided to make him somebody. Do I think the Chargers could easily replace Merriman? Probably not, but I do think that Rivera would be creative enough that the defense would still be good in 2009. That may even be a safer bet than hoping Merriman's knee is 100%.

So let's assume that Larry English is not a bust. Let's assume he's a talented player and in Rivera's scheme, the defense would be 3/4 as good without Merriman than with it. Is it worth the risk? If you trade Shawne, you get rid of the worries about his knee and his lifestyle. You get rid of the thought of contract negotiations with a player who wants a long-term deal but the team does not trust because they don't believe he's dedicated enough to the Chargers. What would you do?