Will Chargers Consider Signing A Free Agent Safety?

The San Diego Chargers have their work cut out for them if they hope to compete for a Super Bowl this season. Its true the team will need to address it's problems on both sides of the ball. We'll be going through each of the Chargers 2009 needs in the coming weeks, but today we'll look at the defense - more specifically, we'll look at the Chargers' struggles getting off the field on third down:

"What's happened to the defense on third-down conversions? It seems automatic for the offenses now. It's been much too easy. They're dangerous, because they can break your spirit." - AJ Smith

General Manager AJ Smith recognized this hole in the defense back in November, and he'll do all he can to make sure the problem is addressed. Because after all, how would it look on the GM's shoulders to have publicly identified such a deficiency and for him to fail to solve it?

Its easy to hear the words "third-down conversions" an immediately point to the pass defense. Sure, the secondary struggled defending the pass last year, but they also struggled to defend the run. Not all of those third downs were third-and-longs. All too many times, the Chargers were faced with defending third-and-short, and they let running backs pick up those easy first downs.

To me it's been obvious for years now; Incumbent starting safety Clinton Hart is simply not getting it done. Hart seems like a really nice guy off the field, but the problem is he carries that same kind disposition with him onto the field. Hart simply is not intimidating, he is not physical enough, and he fails to make plays that he is supposed to make. When the safety is already on the ground before he even makes contact with the ball carrier, you have to strongly consider upgrading the position.

This year's draft class certainly has some talented prospects, but I would argue that the free agent market would actually be the better route in procuring a new starting-caliber safety to pair along the emerging Eric Weddle.

I think the Chargers need a veteran in the secondary to offset the talented, but young, defensive backs already on the Chargers roster. There are two veteran free agent safeties in particular who I feel could make an impact for the Bolts:

Jermaine Phillips
Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 Age: 29
7 seasons; 406 tackles, 3 sacks, 27 passes defended, 11 interceptions

BoltHype scouting report:

Positives: Very good in run support, big hitter, solid pass defender. Important part of one of the league's best pass defenses.
Negatives: not quite fast enough to play free safety. Will be turning 30 soon. Ended last season on injured reserve with a broken arm.

It's unclear at this time whether or not Tampa Bay will resign Phillips. That team is undergoing serious coaching changes and they also have Sabby Piscitelli waiting in the wings. Piscitelli has shown promise, and is already under contract. It'll be interesting to see what kind of offers Phillips gets on the free agent market; Tampa Bay is likely to let another team sign him away.



Sean Jones
Height: 6-1 Weight: 220 Age: 26
5 seasons; 286 tackles, 1 sacks, 25 passes defended, 14 interceptions

Scouting report courtesy Brandon R. from NoLogoNeeded.com, a Cleveland Browns blog:

"The Browns are still trying to figure out what they have in Sean Jones. In his second year, in 2006, he came on like he was going to be All Pro. He was a ball hawk that could lay the big hit. Everyone was expecting the world from him. Last year, while his stats were similar, his play fell off. He was nicked up most of the season and was very susceptible to getting beat deep. The entire secondary seemed to drop off with the loss of leadership from Brian Russell.

This year he hurt his knee in preseason when Brandon Jacobs ran into him. He never seemed to get back on track. He lacks speed but can make a big play when you least expect it. He makes the big hit but also misses too many tackles. The Browns will try to sign him to most likely a low ball one year make or break deal. If there is any interest from another team that involves big money, the Browns will let him walk away.

He could still become one of the top safeties in the league but has to have a strong off season and stay healthy. The Browns just don't have the salary cap space to throw money at him when they have zero linebackers that fit their 3-4 scheme."


By adding a veteran free agent safety, the Chargers would free up a draft pick in 2009 and keep themselves in the running for USC's Taylor Mays or Tennessee's Eric Berry in the 2010 NFL Draft. They could also enter the season with confidence that the safety position has been stabilized and will no longer be the weak link on a promising Chargers defense. Both Phillips and Jones are excellent supporting the run and both players have also shown a knack for making the big play.

February 5, 2009

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22 comments:

Anonymous said... Feb 5, 2009, 11:28:00 PM

Theres nothing in this post that suggests that the Chargers WILL look at a veteran safety. The post is about how they SHOULD. Maybe you should change the title if you don't have a quote from AJ saying he's considering veterans.

Anonymous said... Feb 5, 2009, 11:37:00 PM

i think the author (like most of us) knows that mr. smith explores all his options. its not a leap to assume he would have a look-see at whats out there. i think the bigger leap would be to claim that Smith WONT consider free agents...regardless of position.

Anonymous said... Feb 6, 2009, 8:33:00 AM

The title is misleading...this is just your opion on the topic. I'm not disagree with the topic but I think the title is misleading. Change the tittle to "SHOULD" isntead of "WILL"

The Chargers have not addressed any moves at all.

Rob Zepeda said... Feb 6, 2009, 8:40:00 AM

Thanks for the feedback guys. Looking at it from an outside perspective, I realize the title could be interpreted in different ways.

Aside from the title, what's your take on the post itself?

Sad Diego Charger Fan said... Feb 6, 2009, 9:45:00 AM

The article title should be "Will Chargers Sign...?" as opposed to "Chargers Will Sign...."

And you missed THE top FA Safety: Rams Safety O.J. Atogwe. Chargers fans will recall O.J. got decapitated by L.T.'s stiff arm in '06. But Atogwe manned up and over the next two years, picked off 12 balls. Impressive considering the total lack of defensive talent around him.

Atogwe will smother opposing TEs and help generate turnovers. He's not a big hitter but he is a big producer.

Rick said... Feb 6, 2009, 11:18:00 AM

Don't forget about Brian Dawkins! Weapon X would look AWESOME in BOLTS!!!!!

Anonymous said... Feb 6, 2009, 6:17:00 PM

Mike Brown makes the most obvious sense to the Chargers. Ron Rivera LOVES him and studied under him during the Bear's haydays. Although, suspectable to injuries (AJ bargain-type of players), when he is in the game he makes an impact. Get him, I'll be happy - Boltz4Life619

Rob Zepeda said... Feb 6, 2009, 8:11:00 PM

You make a good point about Mike Brown possibily coming cheap, but it's hard to ignore that four out of the five seasons he's ended up on IR

Anonymous said... Feb 6, 2009, 11:26:00 PM

Safeties I would like for AJ to consider are Dawan Landry a RFA but worth the comp. probably a 5th round comp anyway. Big hitter and can cover and play SS and move Weddle to FS where he doesn't have to cover Harts mistakes. I also like Sean Jone although your right the jury is still out on him. Another guy who I like is Michael Huff he is looking like he will be cut and in a new environment that can hone his talent like in SD he can thrive. 2 safeties I like in the draft are Chip Vaughn or Patrick Chung. I don't think we will have high enough draft picks to get Berry or Mays next year but maybe Myron Rolle. I think AJ likes Paul Oliver although he seems like Sean Jones you just don't know what you have. I would be happy with any of these moves.

Anonymous said... Feb 8, 2009, 8:34:00 PM

I would love if he went after OJ Atogwe. He won't be that expensive either and he is a ball hawk.

Anonymous said... Feb 15, 2009, 1:28:00 PM

Brian Dawkins

Arcadio said... Feb 22, 2009, 12:45:00 PM

yea the chargers need to do these vice-versa sorts of things.
For example, they need to pick up a Defensive End to replace Olshansky since he doesnt produce any pressure or a Inside Linebacker,or a Strong Safety with the 16th pick, and whatever is left off, i think u should go into free agency and pick up an inside linebacker, I think we should pick a defensive end with the 16th pick because there are alot of good ones in the draft and then go into free agency and pick up a strong safety and i just heard that the raiders released Gibril Wilson,he had 120 tackles, 4 ints and about 10 pass defenses and that sounds like a perfect fit for the chargers , then we should maybe release some ineffective people,like marques harris, clinton hart, tim dobbins, cletis gordon, and igor olshansky and then walla i think we have a good lookin defense.

Anonymous said... Feb 23, 2009, 11:12:00 PM

Sorry Myron Rolle going to Oxford.............And i like either Mike Brown or Landry!! But leanin more towards Brown..

Anonymous said... Feb 24, 2009, 5:56:00 AM

Yeah I know he is going to Oxford this year but he said he also wants to try the NFL and the time span for that is short let alone he is expected to enter in 2010.

Anonymous said... Feb 24, 2009, 9:05:00 PM

like we have the money. GM is a tard can't do anything great

wazzucsc said... Feb 26, 2009, 11:17:00 AM

What about Jim Leonhard? He's still young, seems capable on run/pass defense and can shoulder some of the return responsibilities so Sproles can concentrate more on his (presumed) increased role in the backfield. Cap restrictions will price us out of Mike Brown or Gibril Wilson (although it would be nice to have an ex-Raider burn our rival two times a year). James Butler also looks like a promising alternative.

Anonymous said... Feb 26, 2009, 11:34:00 AM

Mike Brown? The guy is old and oft injured I doubt there are any cap restrictions on him. He probably will come cheap to any team. Leonhard? The Jets want him and so do the Ravens. Clearly AJ won't throw out money for a guy who is not worth it. Gibril Wilson is a Dolphin.

Joe Fiorentino said... Feb 27, 2009, 12:30:00 PM

Looks like the Cowboys are shopping Roy Williams. Might be a good pickup if he's still got some gas left in the tank.

Anonymous said... Mar 2, 2009, 12:34:00 PM

No one mentioned Jermaine Phillips in here. I agree with the writer of this post. The two main guys we need to go after in free agency are Jermaine Phillips and Sean Jones. These IMO are the best safeties that are available, get rid of Hart and don't bring back Florence. We shouldn't draft a DE or ILB in the 1st round if Andre Smith is still available or either of the good O_Line guys are around. We need to beef up our O-Line since we lost a few offensive line men. Building our Offensive line should be 1st in draft day. Protecting our Franchise QB and opening lanes for LT would be better for us. Address Safety with FA like who I said above. If none of the better O-Line guys are availbe in the draft when it comes around, than we should draft Ray Maualuga if he's still available. We dont' need Moreno right now (unless none of who I mentioned above is available). Also, Jacquise Cesaire can take over for Igor Olshansky. I would of started Cesaire over Olshansky anyways. He's more mobile, faster and can get to the QB way better than Igor anyways. We should find a back up for Jacquise. I hate how we operate. Aj needs to get off his ASS and try to bait the safety's mentioned above before they are gone. Atogwe and Leonherd would be a good pick up also. Merriman returning will deffinately beef up our defense. He is the lightning for our defense as LT is the Bolt for our offense. Sign him to a looooong term deal already before he decides to shop around after next season. Make moves and spend money AJ. Dont' hold all the money and expect a huge bonus check for urself later. It's not about you its about the Team. 808BOLTFAN

Rob Zepeda said... Mar 3, 2009, 2:57:00 PM

So it looks like Jermaine Phillips came in for a visit with the team, that's great news!

Anonymous said... Mar 3, 2009, 4:46:00 PM

WHATS WRONG AGAIN WITH THE TITLE OF THIS POST?? IT CLEARLY READS "WILL CHARGERS "CONSIDER" SIGNING A FREE AGENT SAFTEY" CLEARLY SAYS "CONSIDER" NOT WILL SIGN, IF U KNOW HOW TO READ AND COMPREHEND U WOULDN'T OF HAD A PROBLEM...ANYWAYS BACK TO MORE IMPORTANT THINGS...GREAT TO SEE PHILLIPS VISITING, I HOPE WE SIGN HIM NOW BEFORE HE GOES TO SEATTLE. I'M PRETTY SURE THEY HAVE BAIT ALREADY SET UP TO LURE HIM IN. WE WILL BE LOSING OUT BIG TIME IF WE DON'T PERSUE HIM NOW. CUT HART AND WILHELM AND WE'LL HAVE ENOUGH FUNDS TO BRING HIM OR SEAN JONES IN. I'LL TAKE WHO COMES 1ST. AS OF RIGHT NOW PHILLIPS IS IN SD AND SHOULND'T BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE UNTIL HE AGREE'S TO PLAY WITH THE CHARGERS..LOL...BIG UP GRADE FOR US CHARGERS. 808BOLTFAN.

HT THE REALEST said... Jan 20, 2010, 4:26:00 PM

I KNO YALL MIGHT THINK I AM CRAZY I WOULDNT WANT JERMAIN ARE SHAWN JONES.THEY BOTH LACK COVERGE SKILLS THEY ARE GREAT RUN STUFFERS.MY PLAIN WOULD B 2 MOVE Q.JAMMER TO SAFTY AND HAVE CASON REPLACE HIM.THEN I WOULD DRAFT JAVED BEST AND KEEP L.T AND RELEASE SPROLES AND DRAFT NOWELL DEVINE WIT LIKE A THIRD PICK IN THE 2010 DRAFT.AND TRADE JAMALE WILLIAMS WE HAD TROUBLE WIT OUT HIM AT FIRST BUT THEN GOT BACK TO THE DEFENSE WE ARE USE 2.I THINK TAY CODY FROM ALABAMA WOULD FALL I THINK THIS YEAR WE SHOULD MAKE ALOT TRADEZ I THINK SHAWN MERRIMAN IS NO GD THEM KNEE'S STILL LOOK BLOWN OUT I WOULD LET HIM GO AND SIGN PEPPERS FROM THE PANTHERS.AND I KNO SAN DIEGO FANS LIKE AJ SMITH I DONT HIS DRAFT LAST YEAR SUCKED WHY DRAFT LARRY ENGLISH AND U KOULD OF HAD USC MLB MALEUGAU HE COULD OF TRADED ARE FIRST 4 TWO 2NDS AND WE KOULD OF HAD SHAWN GREEN RB AND RAY M FROM USC.THERE IS NOT 1 PLAYER WHO MAD AN IMPACT FROM THAT DRAFT LOL AJ SMITH HE DRAFT ALOT OF NOBODYS 2 LIKE SAMMY DAVIS BUSTER DAVIS AND A FEW OTHERS EVEN THOU HE ALSO DRAFTED GREAT 1 TO ALL I AM SAYING AJ SMITH DOES BONE HEAD MOVES AT TIME HE IS NOT JOHN BUTLER RIP

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