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The Chargers Should Not Try to Win Free Agency

Making a few calculated moves is almost always the best decision. And if you’re not sure, then make none at all.

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Much like the coming of Armageddon, Free Agency in the NFL is fraught with inevitable wars and rumors of wars. Regardless of our feelings on the subjects of team cohesion and lineup familiarity, the harsh realities of contract disputes have made the Free Agency period not just a necessity, but another sporting event altogether.

It will be at least another 6 months before you can even smell the glories of pre-season victories. But winning feels good, and any win is a good win—even if it doesn’t take place on the gridiron, right?

The Chargers should not try to win the Offseason.

A cursory look around the web right now will bring you a healthy dose of opinions on which teams are doing a good or bad job adding new bruisers during Free Agency. Equally stimulating is the conversations about teams that avoided the perils of Free Agency. The Steelers opened their pocketbook and paid two-thirds of their most important, most expensive players every dime that they are worth. The Washington Redskins also avoided losing an important piece to the open market, but perhaps in the most clumsy and cringe-worthy manner possible.

Adding players during this period is the real excitement of this time of year. The Patriots today got the prize that is Brandin Cooks, and they paid dearly for it. This absolutely pales in comparison to the Houston/Cleveland trade last week. All of these, however, are paltry compared to the annual popularity contest that is the Philadelphia Eagles’ Free Agency spectacular. Although they haven’t made a blockbuster trade during the draft, their GM Howie Roseman loves to make a splash. In fact, he’s incredibly good at it—dropping dead weight and adding new pieces every year (unless Chip Kelly is on the nest). Everyone remembers the hilarity of 2011’s Dream Team, but it seems that every off-season includes a bevy of Eagles moves that put them as the perennial favorites for winning the Offseason, now 7 years straight.

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Don’t misunderstand--the bold variety of moves that Philadelphia made this off-season has likely strengthened that team. On paper, everything makes a lot of sense. But they also made a lot of sense two years ago when they won the DeMarco Murray sweepstakes, the Sam Bradford QB switch before that, and the Nnamdi Asomugha bomb before that. To GM Roseman’s credit, his best attribute has been clearing these debacles from chaining the franchise for decades through shrewd trade-aways and sly contract writing.

For a few weeks (or even months) each year, the fans of active Free Agency teams enjoy “winning.” It feels good! It’s exciting, it’s sometimes poetic, and it’s a whole lot better than finding another sport to follow from scratch. However, when it comes time to pay the reaper in the form of real football come autumn, rarely do these Free Agency slam-dunks really make the impact everyone was promised.

How to Win the On-Season

The camaraderie of a team is something precious and never, ever guaranteed. A team that works together and supports its various deficiencies is at a huge advantage over a team that doesn’t know who is on their left or right. Take the Pro Bowl, for example. No? OK, that is a fair point—it’s a bad example. But it’s worth noting that it’s common practice for new members of a team to sit out a game or two until they begin to understand the playbook and the dynamics around them. A good, cohesive team is something precious, and care should be taken to preserve that when there. The Chargers are not in that position, but reshuffling the entire deck is not the solution.

The Chargers’ biggest splash has been signing Russell Okung for a good chunk of change. This big name will almost definitely improve the team (which is good!), regardless of the cost associated.

Unfortunately, there’s also the unavoidable losses. The hardest-hitting is undoubtedly Danny Woodhead, a crowd favorite in Southern California. He will be joining former Charger Eric Weddle in Baltimore.

We’re sure that the transition from an elite QB to ...another... QB won’t be terribly hard for Danny Woodhead and Eric Weddle.

The goal of a good team, a team with more positive than negative (despite what the records say), should be to preserve as much of the positive as they can. Keeping some of the players around that might never even see the field has certain benefits. Hopefully QB Kellen Clemens never actually gets to see the field in real play, but retaining him is a much savvier move than bringing in a similarly priced cast-off from another team.

With the uncertainty of a virgin season in a new town, the Chargers brass has largely navigated Free Agency successfully by not changing the entire gameplan. Do not expect the Chargers to score high on anyone’s Free Agency or Offseason acquisition lists—and that’s OK! There are no points awarded for winning the Offseason. The correct move to transition into a winning team is to let the new coach properly assess the existing talent and to begin to tweak from there.


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