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Use Your Head: Analyzing Chargers News/Rumors

Admittedly, this has not been the most exciting offseason in the history of the San Diego Chargers.  Were they involved in one of the bigger trades of the offseason when they sent Charlie Whitehurst to the Seattle Seahawks?  Yes, but that won't really get exciting until we see what the Chargers do with those picks.  Did they cut possibly the greatest player in the history of the franchise?  Absolutely, but it was a move that was two years in the making.

This offseason is all about two things.  One is the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has now passed it's deadline to be renewed and keep things the way they were.  The excitement associated with that has come and gone.  The second, and one that Chargers fans are familiar with being excited about, is the NFL Draft.  When it comes to free agency and big trades, the Chargers will remain a quiet and conservative player as long as A.J. Smith continues to keep this team playing at a high level.

However, that has not stopped certain people from talking.  So I'm here to dispel the rumors and give you the truth.

Rumor #1 - Marcus McNeill to the Colts

Could the Colts use some help at Left Tackle?  Probably.  Both Charlie Johnson and Tony Ugoh are young and prone to some mental mistakes.  For a team that demands perfection, they could certainly be looking to upgrade.  McNeill's biggest strength is pass protection, which means he would be a very good fit for the Colts.

However, there's a few things people are not considering past that:

  • One, Peyton Manning has the best pocket awareness of any QB in the league and maybe ever.  The only QB that started more than a couple of games that was sacked less than Peyton was Vince Young, who played half as many games and was sacked nine times (as opposed to Peyton's ten).  So obviously, while they'd like to upgrade, this is not a big need for them.  
  • Two, Marcus McNeill is going to take a heavy price (1st & 3rd round picks) to get and will demand a heavy price when he signs a long-term contract.  The Colts are a team that builds through the draft, almost exclusively, and has a lot of big-money players already (Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, etc.).  I can't imagine they'd be happy giving up what it would take to do the deal.  
  • Three, and perhaps most importantly, the Chargers have rarely left themselves in a position where they needed to rely on a rookie to come in and be a worthwhile starter in his first season.  Kevin Ellison was supposed to be a backup to Clinton Hart, just as Louis Vasquez was supposed to backup Kynan Forney, for at least one year.  The Bolts are now in a position where they will need a good season from a rookie at RB, as the starter.  I highly doubt they'll compound the risk there by letting their Pro Bowl Left Tackle walk away.

Conclusion: Ain't Happening.


Rumor #2 - Darren Sproles will be traded for a draft pick(s)

Just like with Antonio Cromartie, I'm sure the Chargers have shopped around Darren Sproles to teams that have two power backs and could use a better 3rd down RB (like the 49ers).  I'm sure the lack of a deal at this point means that they didn't get any answers that they were satisfied with.  Could they possibly still be looking to trade him?

Yes and no:

  • Yes because he's way overpaid (2009 and 2010 salaries equal about $14 mil).  In the last two seasons, Sproles has made roughly the same amount of money LaDainian Tomlinson has made.  You remember LT, right?  Former MVP, one of the top 10 greatest RBs that has ever lived and San Diego's football equivalent to Tony Gwynn.  That guy.  He was still getting paid like he was the league's MVP, as the top paid RB in 2008 and the 2nd highest paid RB in 2009.  Sproles was making just a tiny bit less and this year will probably be the 2nd highest paid RB.  This is not the ideal situation for the money-cautious San Diego Chargers.  Not when they're trying to save money to eventually sign guys like McNeill and Vincent Jackson to long-term deals.  If they can trade Sproles, they can get rid of the headache.
  • No because that would put the Chargers in an even deeper hole at the RB position.  In terms of starting RBs, Sproles is probably somewhere around a D+ or C-.  However, if the kid they draft gets injured, the team will be forced to turn to......Mike Tolbert?  Jacob Hester?  Can you imagine either of those guys being the starting RB for a playoff team?  Me neither.  So while the Chargers don't want to keep Sproles around, they may need him because he's the closest thing to a backup RB that the team has.

Conclusion: Maybe.  Every Summer a team ends up cutting a RB that still has some worth.  Michael Bennett is still out there.  The Chargers have pieces to trade with (Merriman) if they really need some help somewhere.  If San Diego took a chance (let's say they trade Sproles and the #28 pick to move up and get CJ Spiller), they would eventually have the chance to find a worthwhile backup.  Is it a risky move?  Yes.  Would the RB the team eventually went after have the advantage because he'd know that the Chargers need a backup?  Yes.  However, you're getting an awful lot of money off the books and helping your team at a more important position in the process.  It could happen, but it's not a sure thing.


Rumor #3 - Vincent Jackson/Marcus McNeill/Shawne Merriman/Darren Sproles/Malcolm Floyd will be signed to a long-term deal

This drives me nuts any time somebody brings it up.  There is literally no benefit whatsoever to the Chargers signing any of these guys to long-term deals when they don't know what the rules for NFL contracts are going to be in the future.  Maybe the cap never comes back.  Maybe it comes back lower.  Maybe players are UFAs sooner, maybe later.

Here's an analogy.  You're at a restaurant, and you take a bite of the delicious steak that you ordered (sorry vegans!).  Immediately you know that this is one of the most delicious steaks you've ever had, and you're so excited about it that you bring back the waiter and order three more.  "But are you sure?" he says, "You might be full by time you finish this one."  Nonsense!  You know a good thing when you've tasted it, and you demand three more steaks immediately.

Now, that doesn't make any damn sense, does it?  Well that's exactly the situation the Chargers are in.  They're a few bites into their delicious steaks, with no idea how full they're going to be by the end of it, and they're smart enough to just keep on eating what's in front of them and not get too far ahead of themselves.  This is also why you didn't see many long-term deals (like Albert Haynesworth's endless contract) signed this offseason.  GMs have no idea what they'll be dealing with in a year from now, and because of restricted free agents, they're mostly able to buy themselves another year of time to keep an eye on it.  To sign any of these players (except for Sproles, in which case it would probably save the team money to give him a long-term deal) right now would be foolish.

Conclusion: Don't count on it.  At least not until the CBA talks between the owners and the players' association became a little closer/clearer.