I will brace myself for some serious backlash here, but please hear out my argument before making a judgment on this one.
We all should know that Reggie Bush is a local product, having grown up in La Mesa and attending Helix High School. He went on to become a star at the high school and college level (with some apparently questionable off the field transactions). Regardless, he was a good enough to win the Heisman trophy, which he later returned, and get drafted number 2 overall to the New Orleans Saints.
Since joining the NFL he has career stats of 524 carries, 2090 yards rushing (4.0 avg), and 17 TDs. In the receiving game he has 294 receptions, 2142 yards (7.3 avg), and 12 TDs. Additionally, as a punt returner he has scored 4 TDs. These stats are not quite what you would have expected out of Reggie after 5 seasons based off of his performance in college, but he has also suffered numerous injuries and only played in 50 games in those 5 seasons. Many critics attribute these injuries to the hard surface at the Superdome and claim Bush would be better served playing on grass (it should be noted that all of the AFC West teams have real grass fields).
Anyhow, after the jump I will make the case to bring this local product back to San Diego.
Cheap! (kind of)
Let's first take a look at what the Chargers have paid Darren Sproles the last two seasons.
Darren Sproles was quite the effective weapon in San Diego's offense, but it is a common opinion that he was severely overpaid the past two seasons. It is not likely that Sproles will be back at that cost, and it will be interesting to see if he will take a significant pay cut to remain in San Diego. A player like Reggie Bush, considering his injury history, should be available on the market for roughly $4-5M, at least that is the rumor on the street.
The Chargers could actually release Sproles, sign Bush, and still save approximately $1-2 million, which could be used to help sign other Free Agents. Also, it seems that the Salary cap (and floor) will return when/if the new CBA is ever sorted out, so the Chargers will have a minimum amount they can spend that they will have to meet.
First off, there is no debate that, when healthy, Reggie Bush is a playmaker. Defenses have to scheme specifically for him because of his gamebreaking speed and elusiveness. In order to properly employ a player like Bush, you need to get him into space. He is a lot like Sproles, only bigger, faster, and younger. He would be a direct plug-in for all of the plays that Norv has built around Sproles. He will continue to allow the screen game to be a huge part of the offense. He's a mismatch against a linebacker and a safety, and he can be moved around to stretch the defense.
I like to think of a 2 WR, 1 TE formation starting with Bush and Mathews in the backfield, and sending Bush in motion to the slot (same thing San Diego did with Sproles several times to get him matched up with a LB). The defense can't possibly protect against the inside run from Mathews, the quick slant to Bush, the seam route from Gates, and the deep ball to one of the WR's all in the same play.
Bush is a deadly returner. He probably wouldn't be used on kickoffs due to injury risk as well as the new rules in place, but he could certainly be used on punts, which keeps Cason fresh for defense (as well as having to put a rookie out there).
This may be grasping at straws here, but in a time when the organization has had some problems selling out games, having a local kid playing for the team honestly couldn't hurt attendance (or jersey sales). Although it may not be a huge factor, I think we would be kidding ourselves if we discounted this as a consideration within the organization because if this offseason has shown us anything, it is that the NFL is first and foremost a business.
This isn't really a no-brainer offseason move either for many reasons:
- First off, AJ Smith isn't notorious for making a huge splash in Free Agency, which is what this would be.
- Bush has been pretty high-profile in a negative light amidst the investigations for receiving improper benefits in college. Smith would probably not like that fact either, but he has been able to stay out of legal trouble recently, which helps.
- As I mentioned earlier, he has had injury issues.
- The Chargers have a lot of free agents that they would like to re-sign before they make an effort to sign players from other teams.
- Lastly, the team just drafted a big time RB in Mathews last season and have a lot of money invested in him, as well as a promising young RB in Tolbert who may or may not be re-signed.
I started this article as just a bit of a "what if" article to get us thinking about a move that really hasn't been talked about a whole lot. This first came to me the other day, and frankly it made a lot of sense to me. Then I was listening to Sirius NFL Radio and Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan made a quick mention that it would actually be a good move for both parties involved, and that Bush may have a better chance staying healthy playing in the AFC West since every team has real turf fields (guarantees 6 games played on real grass).
Basically, when compared to what San Diego has been paying Sproles the past 2 seasons, Bush is an upgrade in performance for a cheaper price. Additionally, he's a San Diego native who would sell more tickets...and he could finally wear the "619" eye black tapes again. If AJ were to make this move it would definitely be out of character, but it makes a lot more sense on more levels than one would think initially.