Is 2010 A Make Or Break Year For The Chargers?

The record may not reflect it, but the San Diego Chargers find themselves with the top ranked offense and top ranked defense in the NFL through the first four games. The stellar offense is par for the course these days, but the top ranked defense has at least a few NFL experts surprised. Combined, this Chargers team is proving that it can matchup with any other team in the NFL.

And Chargers fans, you better enjoy it while it lasts.

The 2010 version of the Chargers has weathered the loss of a few key players in the offseason, and has overcome injuries to starters Shawne Merriman, Stephen Cooper, Louis Vasquez, and Ryan Mathews. The depth on this team, something I questioned coming into this season, is proving to be up to the challenge at this point in the season. But don't get too caught up in that warm and fuzzy feeling.

The Chargers have 16 key players due to enter restricted or unrestricted free agent status after the 2010 season. Guys like Merriman and Cooper, as well as Kevin Burnett and Eric Weddle could leave San Diego for greener (meaning more lucrative) pastures in another city. That's the heart of the defense, and could be a crushing blow to the Chargers plans to contend beyond 2010.

Other key players who could be leaving after 2011 (depending on the details within a new NFL labor agreement) include:

Marcus McNeill
Vincent Jackson (as if his absence was not already felt)
Darren Sproles
Malcolm Floyd
Legedu Naanee
Jeromey Clary
Jacque Cesaire
Travis Johnson
Brandon Siler
Paul Oliver

It might be wishful thinking to sign even half of the players who could possibly exit the team after this season. Merriman is likely gone. Perhaps even a high-priced role player like Sproles will leave after 2010 as well.

As good as AJ Smith has been at filling holes on the roster that need to be filled, no one can maintain a high level of success forever. At some point growing pains have to catch up to the Chargers. Could 2011 be that year?

Giving credit where credit is due, as Smith has been stockpiling draft picks in 2011, knowing that there are bound to be at least a few spots to fill on this roster next year. In 2011, the Chargers already have 1st and 2nd round picks, as well as two 3rd round picks, and a conditional 2nd or 3rd round pick from the Jets for Antonio Cromartie. That's five picks in the first three rounds, and props to Smith for stocking up. Imagine how much better it could have been had Smith pulled the trigger on a Jackson trade.

I don't mean to be all gloom and doom on the hometown team, because if anyone has proven to keep a roster stocked with talent it's AJ Smith. But this team has not seen anything like the possible exodus of players coming in 2011. If ever there was a year to get their act together and make a push into February, this is most definitely the year.

Knowing that the Chargers can't sign everyone, who would you work the hardest to sign and who would you most quickly show the door after 2010?

October 5, 2010

Join our team:


Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 9:08:00 AM

i don't know about deciding for all, but definitely one name that comes to mind is Darren Sproles. We're paying over 7 million for a guy that isn't a feature back, he's more of a third down/change up guy, hasn't looked explosive in kick returns, and even in the passing game i've seen him drop some easy passes. don't get me wrong doesn't mean i hate the guy...just means we're overpaying him and he needs to be let go.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 9:21:00 AM

I agree with that basically we need a smart ball hogging, fearless lighting quick guy on special teams. Darren has gotten soft with all the millions thrown his way. I'm really concerned about Brandon Silers injury. Chargers should have taken their key starters out with their huge lead against the Cardinals. Hope he heals quick we really need this guy! Speacial teams was an improvement but a break away play was looming with just a step away. Norv needs to be so dam predictable with his play calling. Guys I sit with at the Q know all his plays before they snap the ball. If they know them so does the opposing defense. I was happy with their performance this weekend. Now let's go out and repeat it with the Radiers.

Lighting 72.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 9:29:00 AM

Marcus McNeil will be signed to a long term deal by the end of the season. Of the others, the Chargers should keep Brandon Siler, Malcolm Floyd, Legadu Naanee and Paul Oliver. I don't think any of those guys will be expensive to sign.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 10:48:00 AM

I'm sorry but how is Vincent Jackson's absence felt if the they're ranked first in total offense?

I don't think Merrimen will be missed if he's gone. Seem like he's gone down hill since he can no longer take this booster.

Sprole has been a disappointment with all his fumbles and inability to return decent kickoff.

Of those on the list, if we can keep McNeil, Oliver, Floyd, Cesaire, and Weddle...we'll be more than okay (also taking into consideration the draft we'd stockpiled).

Hopefully AJ will do something he doesn't normally do...look to free agency if he can't keep many of these guys...

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 11:24:00 AM

AJ is making these guys play for Pay...How do you get the most out of an NFL player, put him in a contract year! One of the reasons we will stay a top 5 defense this year, that and the fact we're talented, deep, smart and have all 11 guys playing together and for each other for the first time in a long time, maybe ever on defense!

He'll sign the guys that he feels will stay hungry even after given a long term contract. The others will be sent on their way. It's now became a privilage to be a Charger and all these guys are dying to stay Chargers! AJ has created that, you gotta give him that...Missing Vincent Jackson please, did you really think Legadu, Buster & Crayton weren't going to be able to make up for Vincent's #'s. I love Vincent, but he was expandable. The money he wants alone will cover half the players coming up on free agency!

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 11:59:00 AM

I think McNeil will get a reasonably large deal done either right before the end of the season or just after. Floyd & Naanee should be kept if they continue to perform as they have so far with Floyd probably getting a pretty decent raise. Cesaire & Siler if they don't go insane and think they deserve a ton.
Sproles, cya. Merriman, cya. Clary, cya. Jackson, big time cya. Is there a chance for decent comp picks outta these guys?

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 1:22:00 PM

With a new CBA, nobody knows...I am pretty sure we will get some compensation though, If you listen to VJ's agents they will try and tell you no comp picks in next CBA. Aj is holding onto VJ as an insurance policy as well, what if Floyd or Gates went down? VJ's agents have already said he will come in at any time for decent money. I think it's smart to hang on to him, the way people are dropping like fly's, we may just need him.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 2:36:00 PM

cooper: He's getting older and if he's willing to take a small deal, he'll get signed. If not and as long as siler is healthy, he'll get the deal cause of his great play so far this season and his cheaper price tag even if cooper's led the team in tackles for the past 3 seasons (AJ typical). He also might be our franchise player next year.
Weddle: We'll resign him to a pretty good deal. He's a playmaker and solid guy to have around.
Mcneil: Obviously gonna get a deal before the season's over. They already told him he's in their long term plans.
Merriman: Obviously gone. I'd even start placing bets he's gone before the Oct. 19th trade deadline while he's still worth anything...certainly not worth anything on the field. He'll get replaced in the early rounds
Burnett: Could go either way. I would see more sense in maybe letting him walk and drafting a stud LB in the early rounds. Depends on how good he does this year and how well rookies like Lang and Wilson step up.
Vincent Jackson: ummm...yeah good as gone. I kinda hope the CBA makes it so he's back next year for at least 6 games haha
Darren Sproles: way too much for a change-of-pace back; his play hasn't been great thus far this year and he's been the franchise players for 2 years which means the chargers have been teetering on giving him a deal. Look for him to get replaced by someone in the draft.
Malcolm Floyd: He's the older and will demand a bigger contract. If he outplays Naanee this year, he might get signed.
Legedu Naanee: should sign him but with buster davis emerging he'll be the cheaper option because of his bad play over the past 3 years. It's either him or floyd i think...Nanee's been pretty good thus far and is the cheaper option. With one walking, look for the chargers to draft a receiver in the early rounds.
Jeromey Clary: gone. I think dombrowski learns to play right side and we take a tackle in the early rounds to compete in the mix and play in rotation.
Jacque Cesaire: gone. Played solid but not great for many years and doesnt seem to ever become great. He's good enough for a team in need but not enough to sign long term with the bolts having too many to resign as it is. I say vaughn martin takes his spot while we draft an early round defensive end to work in the mix for the future.
Travis Johnson: could sign him to a cheap deal for depth
Brandon Siler: if he keeps getting better i think he'll take cooper's spot...just needs to stay healthy
Paul Oliver: i say he walks with gregory and stuckey taking rotation. He's good, but look for the bolts to address strong safety in the earlier rounds as they progressively have every year.
TOLBERT (MOST IMPORTANT!!!): If AJ's smart he'll sign him to a multi year deal in the middle of the season while he's still affordable if he keeps playing well. The money we spend on him could be taken from the money we save from dropping sproles. We all know he's basically the next Michael Turner. This time, we cant let him walk.

2011 mock draft
1st round: defensive end
2nd round: receiver
2nd round: outside linebacker
3rd round: strong safety
3rd round: tackle
3rd round (comp for vjax): change-of-pace back

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 3:11:00 PM

I'm already getting a very large Erection over next years draft!

Jeff Williams said... Oct 5, 2010, 3:34:00 PM

I knew the "Jackson-absence" line would get some comments. In my opinion, Jackson is better than any other receiver on the team, excluding Antonio Gates of course. Having Jackson available could have meant victories in KC or Seattle, or both. So strangely enough, I do think we missed the guy.

Great comments guys, keep it up.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 3:40:00 PM

what about a comp pick for Tomlinson?

Jeff Williams said... Oct 5, 2010, 4:17:00 PM

While I'm not certain, I believe that because Tomlinson was released, the Chargers will not receive a comp pick. That only applies if the player leaves the team as a true free agent.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 4:36:00 PM

Marcus McNeill - signed for 4-6 years before playoffs
Vincent Jackson - gone, hopefully traded for a 2nd and 3rd
Darren Sproles - gone, releases cap room
Malcolm Floyd - kept
Legedu Naanee - depends on how well buster/crayton play, but probably kept
Jeromey Clary - I'm suprised he hasn't already been cut
Jacque Cesaire - getting older, might be kept around to help Vaughn martin around and play 10 or so downs a game
Travis Johnson - kept, this guy on his day is one of the best in the nfl
Brandon Siler - monster and personal favourite, sign him to a 20 year deal, he's pretty much a combination of ray lewis, brian urlacher, tedy bruschi and Junior Seau all for under 1 million.
Paul Oliver - depends on what happens to Gregory and Stuckey, Gregory has been playing lights out, but if its because of Merrimaning (steroids) then he'll be cut sooner or later.

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 4:42:00 PM

Hey Jeff, Jackson didn't cover kicks did he?

Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 4:45:00 PM

Jeff, every year is a make or break year for the Chargers. I do like the mock that dude posted above me. I would be so stoked If we drafted DE/OLB Safety LB then wr and whatever else. I think more focus has been put on the defensive side of things, as a result the D is top ranked so far in the league. Member, Defense wins championships. Our offense is solid, were a good football team that is getting rid of weeds and were becoming a better TEAM. I'm so happy! Winning is a cure all. I'm very excited for this coming up draft. As long as we don't pull the same stunt we did with English I think we'll come out on top.


Anonymous said... Oct 5, 2010, 4:51:00 PM

On a side note, Bears released Mark Anderson DE. I won't be surprised if we add him to our depleted LB core. Dude was solid his rookie year when he was coached by Our now defensive coordinator Rivera. We need to get this dude...? Agree?


Jeff Williams said... Oct 5, 2010, 9:24:00 PM

No, he doesn't cover kicks, but his experience would have given Rivers another solid option outside of Gates. He was likely the difference in scoring one more TD. It's not his fault that they needed another TD.

Joe C. said... Oct 5, 2010, 9:25:00 PM

this is a good read.
we have to dump sproles and merriman, no question.
we could easily draft someone to replace sproles in the kicking/screen game, and merriman is ALWAYS injured.
Marcus will get his deal done this season.
And i hope AJ keeps Siler, Coop, and Weddle around.
I think Naanee and M80 are both solid WRs, and they should be affordable to keep around.

Anonymous said... Oct 6, 2010, 3:37:00 AM

You obviously don't understand the concept of "no one player is bigger than the team or puts himself ahead of the team". This is a very powerful tool when your consistent with this message and hold everyone in that locker room to the same standard. Thank God MM changed his tune and got the message, Gates got reprimanded the same way and he had to play for 3 million last year!

Anonymous said... Oct 6, 2010, 5:18:00 AM

Keeping Weddle long term is a must!

Anonymous said... Oct 6, 2010, 10:24:00 AM

One the same thread of Jackson covering kicks, do you think his absence has a indirect effect on the special teams coverage with the depth moving up?

Jeff Williams said... Oct 6, 2010, 10:30:00 AM

You are reading my mind, nameless person talking about kickoff coverage depth

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