The NFL trading deadline is this Tuesday and, with the San Diego Chargers in the middle of a relaxing bye week, this would be the perfect time for A.J. Smith to make a move. Smith has never shied away from making a move at the deadline if he thought his team needed it, with Keenan McCardell and Chris Chambers standing as examples to that.
Looking at the rest of the league, there's about 10 teams that could be classified as "sellers" this early in the season. For me, that list would be the Dolphins, Browns, Jaguars, Colts, Broncos, Eagles, Vikings, Panthers, Cardinals and Rams. The Panthers aren't selling because they like what they have and what they're building. The Cardinals and Rams are probably still in the race for the NFC West despite being 1-8 between them. The Chargers won't do inter-division trading with the Broncos, either, so now the list is down to about 6-to-8 good sellers.
Looking at the Chargers roster, there are thee spots in which they could use a boost: OLB, SS and TE. Let's look at each one separately and how they match up with what the sellers have.
This is a need for a few reasons. Obviously Antonio Gates is having a hard time staying healthy and might not be healthy all season. Randy McMichael has been good, but adding another starting caliber-TE would help depth there. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the Chargers red zone offense has been ineffective and the easiest way to give it an immediate shot in the arm would be with a big TE that can catch the ball.
Anthony Fasano - Big receiver (6'4") with good hands and good blocking skills. $3.6 million owed to him in 2012, the last year of his contract.
Benjamin Watson - Great fit for San Diego's scheme, slowly losing time to Evan Moore. $2.8 million owed to him in 2012, the last year of his contract.
Visanthe Shiancoe - Struggling to put up any numbers with Donovan McNabb as his QB. Free agent in 2012. This would be a big-splash move. Questionable locker room guy and blocker.
Bob Sanders was the starter, Bob Sanders is gone. Steve Gregory seems to help the defense create turnovers, but he's not the ideal starter. I'm not saying the Chargers will be shopping for a replacement but, if someone offers them a great alternative to Gregory, the team could be listening. So, with that in mind, I'll keep my candidates to really great options...of which there's only really one.
Adrian Wilson - He fits the formula to an extent. He's an older guy on a rebuilding team. He's an excellent player. However, he's paid like an excellent player and has two years after this one left on his contract. If the Chargers were to trade for Wilson, it would lock down both Safety spots for at least 2.5 years....which is a lifetime for a San Diego Safety tandem. It's tempting, but if Smith pulls the trigger on this it changes the dynamic of the defense and keeps both Gregory and Darrell Stuckey on the bench most of the time.
This one is a bit of a stretch, even more than Strong Safety. Any OLB picked up would be taking away snaps from Travis LaBoy, Larry English and Antwan Barnes. Again, I don't see the team wanting to do that unless they stumbled across a superstar with a lightweight contract on a team that wasn't asking for the world in return for him. Let's go shopping.....
Cameron Wake - What do you know? A superstar with a lightweight contract! The Dolphins found Wake, a former Penn State Nittany Lion, playing Canadian football and let him loose on the NFL. Last year, as a full-time starter for the first time, he racked up 14 sacks. This year he has only 3, as teams are gameplanning around him. Having him opposite Shaun Phillips would make for a dominating pass-rush. He is due $480,000 in 2012, which is the last year of his contract. He'd probably cost the team an early pick (2nd or 3rd round?), meaning the Chargers would want to sign him to a long-term deal instead of risking throwing the pick away for nothing. Trading for Wake would be a sign that San Diego's front office has lost all hope in Larry English and I don't know that they're there yet.
So that's pretty much the market that San Diego is looking at. Make a big splash with Cameron Wake or Adrian Wilson, both of whom would probably be with the Chargers for a few years afterwards and cost a bit of money, or shoot for a lesser Tight End to fill the void left by Gates and maybe play "second TE" in 2012.
Shiancoe is kindof stuck in between these two groups, and him being around for a while and costing a lot of money would be dependent upon what the Vikings demand in return for him along with how he performed when he got here.