We all know the Chargers have some serious work to do before they can consider themselves ready for the NFL free agency period, which begins at trim some fat by making a handful of salary cap cuts, as well as four internal free agents I expect the team to re-sign. Now it’s time to take a quick look at which internal unrestricted free agents I don’t expect the team to retain.
I think this is one area where the Chargers can either hurt themselves with emotional decisions or help themselves long term with decisions driven by analysis and big picture thinking. In my opinion, this is the case because all three players on my list could be retained because it’s either the path of least resistance, the team is allowing emotion/sentiment to cloud its judgment, or they simply aren’t seeing the big picture.
Let’s take a closer look at the three unrestricted internal free agents I don’t think the Chargers will bring back in 2017…
This should be a relatively simple decision, but I’m not sure it will be as I think this is where the Chargers are likely to make an emotional decision. First of all, Danny Woodhead is 32 years old and has played three or fewer games in two of the last three years. Second, it should be clear to anyone watching that this offense goes as Melvin Gordon goes, which means the focus should be on expanding his role rather than retaining his handcuff, so to speak. Lastly, I’m not convinced offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is creative enough to work Woodhead into the offense without losing track of Gordon and simply splitting touches, which cannot happen. That’s why I would let Danny walk and look to replace him with a late round pick who won’t command the role to which Woodhead has become accustomed.
I do expect the Chargers will at least try to re-sign Danny, as they’ve already expressed a desire to do so, but my guess is it comes down to playing time (role) and money for Danny, who is likely preparing to sign his last NFL contract. That’s why I think it’s likely the Chargers will disappoint/insult him with a reduced role and a pay cut, and he’ll ultimately decide to sign with a contender.
Projected market value: 2 years, $6M, $2M guaranteed.
Probability of not being re-signed: 70%
Manti Te’o is a classic accumulator of stats (tackles) as opposed to a playmaker. He’s also undersized, fragile, slow and a terrible liability in coverage. Oh, and he isn’t much of a blitzer or pass rusher, either. It’s also worth noting he was likely surpassed on the depth chart by two first-year linebackers (Jatavis Brown and Korey Toomer) with a third (Joshua Perry) nipping at his heels. And yet, in spite of all this, it isn’t too difficult to envision a scenario in which the Chargers decide to retain Manti as some sort of fictional mentor for their new trio of ‘backers.
All that said; this comes down to numbers. Not so much contractual numbers, but roster numbers. Brown, Toomer, and Perry all project to be better players than Te’o, which means the team needs to find ways to get all three on the field, and they also have Kyle Emanuel to fill in in a pinch. While my faith in the team’s front office to make the right decision isn’t exactly resolute, I do think common sense and the talents of the other players on the roster convince the Bolts to part ways with Manti Te’o.
Projected Market Value: 1 year, $3.5M, $0 guaranteed
Probability of not being re-signed: 70%
Even as I write this, I find myself going back and forth on whether or not Kellen Clemens will be re-signed. Why? Because the Chargers either have an inexplicable love affair with their noodle-armed backup quarterback, or he has some serious dirt on Tom Telesco. I mean, how else has the guy who can’t get through a training camp practice without making
The fact is, Kellen Clemens holds no long, mid, or short-term value for a team that needs to clear a spot for a young gun right now. Not to mention, carrying three quarterbacks is a waste of a roster spot. This isn’t even about Clemens’ lack of NFL tools, alarming though they may be; it’s about preparing for the future. And let’s face it; Clemens ain’t exactly the difference between a winning season and a losing season in the event of a Rivers injury, so let’s all shake hands, part ways, and fill that spot with someone who actually has a shot at impacting the Chargers next 5-10 years.
Projected market value: who cares?
Probability of not being re-signed: 60%
When considering these moves we need to ask ourselves some key questions. Have we seen enough from them to understand what, if anything, they bring to the team for the life of their new deal? Does re-signing them prevent a player already under contract from getting the snaps he needs to develop? Is a reduced role necessary to justify keeping them? Can the team benefit from drafting a younger, healthier player capable of filling a long-term need?
In my opinion, parting ways with Danny Woodhead, Manti Te’o and Kellen Clemens should be a no-brainer. The only real question is Woodhead, but that is more or less negated by his age and recent injury history. In all three cases, the team should be looking to clear roster space and/or playing time for younger and/or better players – some of whom are already on the roster. It’s time for all parties to move on, let’s just hope the team relies on analysis rather than emotion and sentimentality.
That’s what I think, let me know what you think and keep an eye out for my next article addressing the team's restricted free agents...