The 2016 season was the last year on the rookie contract of linebacker Manti Te’o. This means Te’o will become an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team when the free agency period begins on March 9th. The Chargers have three starting quality linebackers on the roster in Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown, and Korey Toomer assuming that he is retained (Toomer is a restricted free agent). They also have last years 4th round pick Joshua Perry waiting in the wings.
So with four capable linebackers on the team, that would seem to make the oft-injured Te’o expendable. However, I'm going to tell you why I think the Chargers should consider keeping the former Notre Dame star around. Now, before we get started I should note that giving him another contract should be contingent on his willingness to sign a one-year deal. Should he be offered a multi-year deal on the open market, the Chargers would do best to let him walk. But, let’s say he is winning to take a one-year deal to stay with the Chargers. This is why I would be on board with having him around a bit longer.
Of all the traits Manti Te’o has had called into question, his leadership ability has never been one of them. Going back to his collegiate days, Manti has always been able to get his teammates fired up. Players rally around him and look to him for words of inspiration. This is a quote from an anonymous AFC executive talking about Te’o’s leadership quality coming out of college.
For the most part, this has held true for Te’o in the pros. Manti has called the Chargers defensive plays, and it’s obvious that he is well respected having been voted as a team captain this past season. Manti Te’o is a leader, and the Chargers can't afford to lose leadership like that.
It’s no secret that the Chargers have struggled with a seemingly endless string of injuries over the past few seasons, with Te’o usually a knot in that string. Last season both Perryman and Brown missed time due to injury. I don't think it would hurt (pun intended) to have an experienced linebacker like Te’o on hand and available to help out in case of injury as well as to rotate with the starters for a play or two every now and then. Manti may not have what it takes to start on this defense, but I believe he can be effective in small doses.
Manti Te’o is not the player the Chargers hoped he would be when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but he can still be useful to the team. With the right deal for the right price, the Chargers should at least consider keeping Manti around for a little while longer.
Do you think the Chargers should bring back Manti Te’o? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.