What in the world is happening at Chargers park this offseason? As Chargers fans, recent history has allowed us to sit back, pop some popcorn, and watch all the other dysfunctional NFL franchises seemingly implode during the offseason. This year, the Chargers are doing their best to join that group of dysfunctional franchises.
First we started the year with all the stadium drama. Okay fine, we can kind of ignore that if we want to.
Then came the will-they-or-won't-they trade Philip Rivers drama. Things got a little more difficult to ignore at that point because it's hard to ignore talk of your franchise quarterback leaving the team. A franchise quarterback that is arguably the best quarterback the Chargers have ever had and has consistently been in the top-10 – if not top-5 – of most proficient quarterbacks in the league each year.
The draft came and went and the Chargers still had Philip Rivers on the team, saying they planned to keep him all along.
Now enter Eric Weddle.
Both Rivers and Weddle are entering the final year of their respective contracts, and going about it in different ways. We've already written about it here, so I won't rehash the same story. Now it seems, not only are the players handling their contract years differently, but the team is also handling each player differently.
The Chargers want Rivers to stay, but not only are they willing to let Weddle walk, but they're helping him pack his bags at this point.
What do we know at this point?
We know Weddle has publicly stated he won't participate in OTAs unless the team opens contract negotiations with him. In response, the Chargers brass made some thinly-veiled passive-aggressive comments about being a team player, etc. But the team has publicly stated they plan to open up negotiations with Weddle and work out an extension.
That changed yesterday, when the team stated that they would not be offering him an extension. The team seems to be planning to let Weddle test the Free Agency market and let the market dictate his new contract price. That's quite the gamble, and one that almost cost them Weddle once before.
Then came the news that head coach Mike McCoy gave a speech to the players attending OTAs last Monday that they should basically get used to playing without Eric Weddle, and that Weddle bailed on his team because he's unhappy with his contract.
Really? I mean, really?
I know that NFL contracts, much like stocks, are based on future potential and not past performance. I know that Weddle will be 31 at the end of the season and historically speaking will be entering a period of decline in his performance. I know that Weddle doesn't have much leverage over the Chargers and he's handling this apparent slight in really the only way he can.
But, I also know that Eric Weddle is this team's best, and most reliable, defensive player. A two-time first–team All–Pro and three–time Pro Bowler, Weddle has participated in 98 percent of the Chargers' defensive snaps since his last contract extension in 2011. The team is concerned that as he gets older, Weddle's health will begin to factor into the equation. But there's more to a player than just their playing ability: the leadership and guidance he can provide to other teammates could prove invaluable.
For the team to not only publicly say, "stop asking for a new contract", but then to have to the head coach throw him under the bus, telling the players that Weddle has bailed on his team for not attending voluntary workouts? This whole saga has just made both sides look rather petty and petulant, but the way the team is handling the situation – both privately and publicly – is really making Weddle look like the good guy at this point.
The Chargers are treating Weddle as if he's some common average player demanding more money than he deserves. Trust me, Eric Weddle is more than just an average player, and is one of the few that actually deserves the contract he's demanding.
This isn't high school. The team and coaching staff is better than this. The team does have some valid concerns at this point, but those same concerns apply to Philip Rivers. What makes Weddle so expendable and worth the gamble? If the Chargers really are ready to move on from Eric Weddle, they should be handling it better. But they shouldn't be ready to move on from Weddle, he deserves better.
I for one get sick to my stomach picturing Eric Weddle in a Denver Broncos uniform, reminding us twice a year of what should have been.