By now, most people who have followed the situation closely feel that it's unlikely Drayton Florence will be a San Diego Charger beyond the 2007 season. Florence is in a contract year, and 2006 first round draft pick Antonio Cromartie is waiting in the wings.
I ran into Drayton after practice Saturday, and asked him about his contract status and his goals for the season. In terms of stats, I asked if five or six interceptions was attainable. Florence wouldn't talk specific numbers, and instead stressed his goal was to win games. I then brought up the fact that he is going to be a free agent next season, and I wanted to know if he had a desire to resign with the team. Drayton expressed that he would like to be a Charger, but that AJ Smith was the man to ask about any potential deals. Florence pointed to the Asante Samuel situation in New England (even after having one of the best seasons among league defensive backs, Samuel and the the Patriots are struggling to come to terms on a new deal).
I like throw big numbers out there and gage the player's response so I asked Drayton if it would take $40 million to resign with the Chargers. He told me nobody is getting forty (ha!).
I came away from that brief conversation not very optimistic that a new contract was in the books for Drayton Florence. While he never said it, you could tell from his tone and expression that negotiating with AJ Smith is a hard, if not frustrating, thing to do. Drayton probably knew that if he really wanted to stay in San Diego, he would have to take much less money than what would be offered him on the open market.
So it got me thinking...what are some realistic contract numbers for a guy like Drayton Florence? Here is a guy who can obviously play cornerback at a high level. His 16 passes defended ties him for 8th among defensive backs. Florence and Jammer and give the Chargers a tandem of defensive backs with 15 or more passes defended. There were only three such tandems in the league last year:
Green Bay Packers
Charles Woodson 8 INT / 20 Pdef / 59 Tackles
Al Harris 3 INT / 17 Pdef / 41 Tackles
Nnamdi Asomugha 8 INT / 19 Pdef / 50 Tackles
Fabian Washington 4 INT / 15 Pdef / 40 Tackles
San Diego Chargers
Quentin Jammer 4 INT / 18 Pdef / 78 Tackles
Drayton Florence 3 INT / 16 Pdef / 66 Tackles
Florence and Jammer are a nice pair of corners and great fits for the Chargers physical brand of defensive. And while they might be an elite tandem, Florence and Jammer nonetheless make a very good pair of starting cornerbacks,
Last year, Quinten Jammer was extended five years to the tune of $30 million with about $13.5 guaranteed. Jammer is a better player than Florence, so D Flo can't expect Jammer-type money if he wants to be extended. But then again, Florence is much more likely to get Jammer money with the Chargers then, say, Charles Tillman money. Tillman signed a six year extension with the Chicago Bears for $38 million dollars. Tillman's teammate, Nathan Vasher, got a 5 years, $28 million dollar extension as well. In 2005, Anthony Henry signed with the Cowboys as a free agent for 5 years, $25 million.
Drayton Florence's deal with the Chargers, should they offer him one, will likely be in the 5 year, $20 million dollar range. And because they have begun to groom a replacement for D Flo, they may or may not make it a priority to resign him.
We know Drayton can play; he has steadily improved every year. And of the four defensive backs the Chargers drafted in 2003, (Sammy Davis, Drayton Florence, Terrance Kiel, Hanik Milligan) he is clearly the best of the bunch and the only one actually still with the team. So in essence, if Drayton Florence were to leave the Chargers via free agency, one might call the Chargers' entire 2003 class of defensive backs either a waste or a failure.
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