Chargers Camp a Game of Leverage
Who is right and who is wrong? Both parties are exercising their rights, so we have a stalemate. Although it is an interesting debate among fans and sports radio people, I am not going to attempt to say who is right. I do however think that some chess pieces have been moved, which lead me to believe that one party is playing chess and the other is playing checkers.
At this point four very important parts of the Chargers 2010 success are unsigned. I realize that some people out there feel that Rivers has “Ditka” type skills that would allow Philip to win games on his own, but football is a team sport and these players are at impact positions.
I do need to make this point before I dive into this. Football is a business; it is not about sticking to your word, playing out your contract, or having loyalty. The only loyal people to a team are its fans.
Jim Trotter of Sports illustrated stated on XTRA Sports AM 1360, he believes that current players are not worried about missing this year because they feel that having four years of service time will be enough to become unrestricted free agents in the next CBA.
Pro Bowl players such as Jackson and McNeill have legitimate concerns about playing for small amounts of money in such a violent sport. A blown ACL from VJ and that could not only mean he loses his big pay day, but it could end his career. I think it is also important to point out that these players have been playing under their current deals for very below market amounts without complaint.
As is has been widely publicized AJ Smith mailed letters to outstanding restricted free agents (V. Jackson, and McNeill) instructing them that he would be lowering the tenders that he previously issued if they did not sign them by June 15.
Jackson’s salary from $3.268 million to $583,000
McNeill’s salary from $3.168 million to $600,000.
Did AJ Smith need to force the issue and set this deadline? No. In fact normally when camp opens is the time this sort of drama begins. I think it can be debated as to why he seemed to go out of his way and issue the ultimatum.
Marcus McNeill is arguably the most important player that will not be in camp this week. He is an all-pro tackle that protects the $90 million investment that is Philip Rivers. No tackle available or on the Chargers roster is near the caliber of McNeill. To top things off three weeks after the “deadline” news breaks that Pro Bowl left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson agreed to terms on a contract extension with the New York Jets, a six-year deal for $60 million deal.
If you are McNeill you know you are worth money very close to what the Ferguson is getting. McNeill has all of the leverage at this point, either Smith needs to find a way to work out a deal or he could be starting Tre Thomas at left tackle on September 13th.
Vincent Jackson is not a diva, but is not squeaky clean. Jackson has baggage, his DUI’s, his lack of focus on the field at times. Jackson is a pro bowler in his own right and after watching diva wide out Brandon Marshall get traded to the Dolphins and then rewarded with a four year $47.5 million dollar deal he must have got his wheels spinning.
Some people have argued that Rivers made Jackson, but you could also argue that Jackson’s ability to go deep opens up a lot underneath, including opportunities for pro bowler Antonio Gates. The Chargers are not as deep as they have been in the past, especially at wide receiver. Floyd, Davis, Reed, and Nanee are not exactly the type of receiving core that will strike fear in an opposing secondary.
Last week AJ Smith came out and stated he had no interest in bringing in Terrell Owens. I am not a huge Owens fan, but I do see the value in at least entertaining him and letting the Jackson camp know that you do have other options. Owens is now rumored to sign with the Rams or Bengals early this week.
Ryan Mathews the man that AJ is putting his stack of chips on this year. Mathews is not signed and considering the receiving core I am sure Mathews agent realizes that his value is even larger to the Chargers because of the lack of a legitimate #1 wide out. I do not see a long hold out, but you can be assured that Mathews agent is going looking for top 10 money.
UPDATE: Ryan Mathews sign on 8/1/10 signed a five-year, $25.65 million contract, with just more than $15 million in guaranteed money.
Shawne Merriman also has missed offseason workouts, but his tender ($3.269 million) is for 110 percent of his 2009 salary. At this point no issue, but wait there’s more. It was reported that Merriman was almost traded during the draft, but his agent blocked a deal, stating that terms on a contract had to be reached before a trade was completed. Merriman’s reaction, he fired his agent. This week Merriman told XX Sports Radio in San Diego recently he hasn’t decided when he’ll show up to training camp. It has widely been reported by Union tribune writer Kevin Acee, that he felt Merriman’s days as a Chargers player were numbered. Of course Acee has been saying this for almost two seasons and Merriman is still here. Watching Demarcus Ware get a big pay day from the Cowboys may be a motivating factor.
Mix in the fact that the Broncos went out and signed Elvis Dumervill last week to a six year $61.5 million dollar deal and I think you have Merriman wondering if he wants to risk further damage to an injury plagued body when a big pay day could be out there in 2011.
Enter Larry English, the Chargers first round pick in 2009. English was not the impact player most were hoping for, but he did show signs of hope. At least in regards to OLB the drop off may be the least because of English.
UPDATE: On 8/13 Merriman did end his hold out, signing his tender.
My goal was not to prove which party is in the right. I simply wanted to put some thoughts out there and allow you to comment. In the spirit of negotiation……balls in your court.