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Why The Chargers Used the Waived/Failed Physical Designation to Cut Darrell Stuckey

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The first full week of training camp has been anything but uneventful for the Los Angeles Chargers, and that continued in full force on Friday with the news the team had waived longtime special teams captain Darrell Stuckey via the waived/failed physical designation.

While many fans seem shocked by the move, with some even accusing the Spanos family of “screwing” another beloved player, I don’t buy into that narrative. First of all, it shouldn’t have been a shock to those who have been paying attention. And second, I’d argue the “Dean screwed Darrell” narrative is rooted more in a deep-seated desire to criticize all things Spanos than an understanding of what actually happened here.

The truth is; the Chargers did Darrell Stuckey a “solid” by waiving him this early in training camp. I know; it seems odd to suggest the organization did someone a favor by waiving them, but hear me out.

Darrell Stuckey is a 30-year old special teams player. He was the sixth safety on the roster, offered no defensive value, and was due to earn $3,333,750 in what was the last year of his contract. And, most importantly, he’s still rehabbing a knee injury he suffered during the 2016 season finale against the Chiefs. He wasn’t going to make the roster and the coaches knew it, so they found a way to release him early in camp, essentially giving him a chance to catch on elsewhere should he get healthy.

And, knowing Anthony Lynn’s background as a special teams grunt, I’d be willing to bet he sat down with Stuckey, explained that he didn’t fit the team’s plans, and asked Darrell what he wanted to do. Which means, the team didn’t screw Stuckey or discard him; the odds are they granted him his release on his terms with one caveat – it had to be done via the waived/failed physical designation.

Why did they do it that way?

Because, as opposed to placing him on the waived/injured list, which requires an injury settlement (Stuckey stays on the books for 2017), the waived/failed physical designation allowed the team to free itself of his entire base salary. He, of course, still collects the remaining portion of his pro-rated signing bonus ($433,750), but the team essentially used a loophole to save $2.9M against the cap at a time when they may be shopping for offensive line depth following the season-ending injury to rookie guard Forrest Lamp.

Look, I get that most fans, myself included, hate Dean Spanos and his sons. I even get that fans have grown attached to Darrell during his seven seasons with the Chargers. But no one got screwed here and this is actually a good thing for both sides.

For Darrell, it’s a chance to mend his injuries and, if all goes well, find a better fit for his services. That means he gets to choose where he wants to go and which team he wants to play for, which is never a bad thing.

For the team, it’s a chance to use those special teams minutes to continue developing young players like Joshua Perry, Rayshawn Jenkins, Desmond King and (hopefully) Dexter McCoil. While doubtful, it could even create an opportunity for someone like Adrian McDonald to make the final 53-man roster. These are all developments that should excite fans even if it means saying goodbye to a fan favorite.

At the end of the day, Darrell Stuckey was faced with a situation every NFL player eventually faces – he had outlived his utility on what was suddenly a very young roster. This doesn’t, in any way, diminish his contributions to the team or the city of San Diego. Darrell will continue to be a great humanitarian and we all hope he finds work elsewhere; it was just time to move on. The truth is, it probably should have happened a year earlier.

So let’s stop accusing the Spanos family of “screwing” Darrell Stuckey and recognize this for what it likely was – the oh-so rare mutual parting of ways that allows both sides to explore better fits. In other words, if you’re going to hate Dean Spanos, do it for the gutless way in which he robbed you of your NFL team. Just be smart enough not hate him for making an astute football and business decision that saved him money and paved the way to more playing time for younger players with a chance to contribute on special teams and defense.