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Cut Him or Keep Him?: Takeo Spikes

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It now seems like Takeo Spikes wants to play in 2013 for the San Diego Chargers. The question is, should the Chargers want him back?

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Harry How

Contrary to some of the rumors circulating about Takeo Spikes in the offseason, mostly that he was considering retiring from the NFL, the 15-year veteran told Kevin Acee that he'd like to be back with the San Diego Chargers in 2013.

Spikes has been playing phone tag with Mike McCoy and met Tom Telesco only briefly because the day Spikes stopped by to talk was the same day Lovie Smith was in to interview for the head coach position.

Spikes wants to finish out that contract in San Diego with the new head coach and new general manager. He has seen what can occur with the right kind of change.

Source

Well, then. It appears Tom Telesco has a decision to make on Takeo Spikes.

Cost

Takeo would cost the Spanos family $3 million if he were on the team in 2013. He would count for $3.7 million against the salary cap.

If Takeo were released before the start of the season, he would count for $700,000 against the cap in 2013. That's a cap savings of $3 million.

Production

Let's go back to our old friends at Pro Football Focus for an unbiased view on Takeo's performance over the last few seasons.

  • 2008 (SF): 16.0 overall / 7.0 run defense / -0.4 pass rush / 9.1 pass coverage
  • 2009 (SF): 12.0 overall / 3.4 run defense / 1.1 pass rush / 7.1 pass coverage
  • 2010 (SF): 17.8 overall / 12.4 run defense / -0.8 pass rush / 5.8 pass coverage
  • 2011 (SD): -6.1 overall / -5.6 run defense / -0.3 pass rush / 0.3 pass coverage
  • 2012 (SD): -1.8 overall / 0.4 run defense / 0.9 pass rush / -1.8 pass coverage

That's about right in line with what I've seen with my eyes. In 2012, Donald Butler and Jarret Johnson allowed Takeo Spikes to be much better against the run, so he was average. He was an average pass rusher, and always has been.

He was below average in coverage in 2012, for the first time in a long time. That's the chief concern there. Donald Butler isn't the best in zone, and Jarret Johnson probably isn't as good at it as Shaun Phillips was. Without a definitively Strong Safety out there to cover Tight Ends, it's going to be difficult to keep Spikes on the field without opposing offenses successfully gameplanning to attack him.

The Market

Is $3.7 too much or too little for a player like Takeo Spikes? Well, it depends. Linebackers are a little like Running Backs in that there is much more supply than demand, which creates two markets. The first market is the guys that hit free agency at the right time and get way overpaid. The second market is guys that hit free agency at the wrong time and get way underpaid (by comparison).

Here's an example of other 3-4 Inside Linebackers around the league (and their 2012 cap hit) so that you get what I'm talking about:

  • Patrick Willis: $17.7 million
  • David Harris: $12 million
  • A.J. Hawk: $6.5 million
  • D'Qwell Jackson: $6.2 million
  • Ray Lewis: $5.6 million
  • Kevin Burnett: $5.3 million
  • London Fletcher: $3.5 million
  • Derrick Johnson: $3.2 million
  • Dannell Ellerbe: $1.9 million
  • Keith Brooking: $1 million

Wait and See

Spikes is doing the right thing by trying to seem invested in the 2013 team. He's going to try to cozy up to his new GM and Head Coach. Why? Because they can go shopping behind his back to try and find a more talented player.

Free agency is not a real open-door endeavor. The Chargers can talk to any number of players and agents without anybody knowing, and they'd be silly to not look at the market for free agent Linebackers to see if they can't find an improvement at the position for $3 million or less against the salary cap in 2013....unless Takeo Spikes convinces his GM and Coach that he's more valuable than just on-field performance. If they view him as a valuable leader in the locker room, someone that will be an important ally while they make drastic changes this season, they might just be willing to spend that $3 million for another average season from Takeo Spikes.