The Formula for Handling Free Agents For the Chargers

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Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

What is the formula for keeping and signing free agents? Obviously, people far more astute than me are paid large sums of money to tackle this dilemma. But let’s take a crack at anyway, shall we?

The Chargers, like all teams, have a mixed bag with regard to free agents throughout their history. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, and all strategies are hit and miss. But is there a basic “correct” way to deal with free agents? Perhaps.

First and foremost, cap space is an issue, of course. And although that is without doubt the primary factor in considering a signing, it is not an aspect that will be considered here because this article is taking a more general approach to free agents. This analysis is about optimizing the roster space and the future of the team while making the current team as competitive as possible. If you can’t afford them then there is no sense in discussing the topic, and that totally defeats the purpose here.

Before we get to players, though, let’s take a look at the factors in determining whether or not to pull the trigger on a player.

Factor 1: Expense

Let’s face it, some free agents are out of the Charger’s price range, and that is actually a smart position to be in. Certain players are off limits and although we may miss out on some All-Pro type players, we also avoid the HUGE dud that can set a team back for years.

Factor 2: Future

The life of an NFL player is alarmingly short. Future is import, but it is short term future that should be the top consideration. A player on the way up is obviously preferable to an older player whose career is waning.

Factor 3: Age

Athletic maturity combined with mental maturity is the balancing act that many players must traverse. Some players peak athletically before their mental acuity has a chance to catch up with them. When they finally “figure it out” they can be on the downslope of  their athleticism and they have missed an opportunity.

Factor 4: Athletic Peak

Not all players hit their peak at the same time and some experience longer period of peak production than others.

Factor 5: Fit

Does the athlete fit the team’s system in place.

Factor 5: Coaching

Can the right coach make a difference in productivity?

Let’s start by looking at some of the history that has been Charger free agency. Keep in mind, hindsight is always 20/20, but it is possible to rate signings and use that criteria to look at current “types” to determine the best course of action. The following Chargers, past and present, help to illustrate the importance of each factor mentioned. We can then use this analysis to take a look at a few current free agents to see if they would be good signings this year for the Bolts.

King Dunlap- Opponent player we signed, he was a low risk guy and turned out to be a great signing. The price was right. Dunlap was young enough, and not at the stage of his career to expect a decline in athleticism. But the two factors that seem to be the most notable are fit and coaching. His style of play fit the zone blocking scheme and Joe D’Alessandris clearly gets the best out of his linemen.

Rodney Harrison- Our player we didn’t sign, Rodney went on to be a key player on a Super Bowl championship team. Ask most people and they would say that not signing Harrison was a huge mistake and it would be very hard to argue, but at the time it was a good decision. Why you ask? (With good reason.) It was logical to assume that Harrison was at the peak of his career when he was with the Chargers (and therefore it was reasonable to expect a decline in performance). Wrong! For sure wrong, but the last thing a team wants to do is pay for past performance. A player at the peak of his earning potential is often at the beginning of his athletic decline. And the last thing any team wants to do is pay for peak performance and get declining performance. It’s tricky to be sure, but it is essential to lower risk and optimize potential. That’s why it is generally safer to go with a younger guy.

Donald Butler- Our player we did sign, Butler’s worth is yet to be determined. Did we do the right thing? This is as close to a no brainer as you can get. He’s young and not only a part of our system, a leader in that system. He basically fits every factor and whether he ends up being the player we think he is or not, this has to be classified as a good signing. Remember, we are evaluating decisions at the time of the time of the decision, not after we have obvious results.

Derek Cox- Opponent player we signed. Cox was a mistake, but was he a bad signing? The obvious answer is OF COURSE, he ended up finding himself in the doghouse and was released. But was he really a bad decision? Frankly, it doesn’t look like it if you look at it at the time of the decision. Cox fit most of the factors and was, most certainly, a player whose position was one of great need for us.

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  • Padraigh Keogh

    Sam Shields went for crazy money for a supposed low level priced CB. Could be priced out of a lot of players if that trend continues.

    • Diegoblue

      Yeah Shields set the market WAY HIGH.. for a pretty good CB.. Not worth that type of paper

      • Julien Bélair

        no better drafting one or two

        • Diegoblue

          Agreed brother

          • Julien Bélair

            But clearly we were not in the market for a guy like Shield haha… 10 millions a year I still can’t believe it

          • Sergio Quintero

            And Gunner was giving me crap for thinking James Jones is going to make 5 million a year, if Shields is worth 10, then Jones easily will make 5 and probably over 6.

          • Julien Bélair

            James Jones is a TD maker that is why he will get more money than most people think

          • chris01

            Also because of the cap increass

          • Gunnar Martin

            I still hold my case, by the way. Green Bay paid him just under 3 million last year. Why would anybody give him more than that when he is older and not as good now?

          • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

            Because he’s good. Talib please?

          • Gunnar Martin

            Talib… oh man. I don’t know. Good player, but he can be very inconsistent. Plus the whole attitude/off the field stuff. I don’t even think he would be a fit in our zone coverage scheme. He just doesn’t seem like someone TT would bring in, you know?

    • Michael Norton

      Yeah, I sent this in prior to the Shields signing. It does look like we may have to spend a couple of picks (not just #1) on a CB. That’s definitely is looking to be way to go.

    • Michael Norton

      Yeah, I sent this in prior to the Shields signing. It does look like we
      may have to spend a couple of picks (not just #1) on a CB. That’s
      definitely looking to be way to go.

      • Sergio Quintero

        Useful guys like Tarrel Brown or Corey Graham are still options, but anything looking like a top 20 CB no way.

        • Michael Norton

          Totally agree, Sergio. I’m liking Graham myself, but I don’t expect a big splash in free agency for us.Telesco is going to have to mine the undrafted free agents and hit on another Jahleel Addae type.

        • Julien Bélair

          I’m glad because it means GB won’t snag a CB in front of us in the draft

    • Julien Bélair

      good news is GB won’t draft a CB in the first rd

    • http://www.BoltBeat.com/ Peter Thompson

      It’s because he’s good. And hee was who we wanted. Now I want Talib.

      • Padraigh Keogh

        He may be good, but is he $10m good. Chargers couldn’t afford that kinda money. He was supposed to be mid price money, not elite money. Hope his money doesn’t affect other CB demands in FA.

  • Sergio Quintero

    The chargers are in the extremely strange position 5 million under 2014, and somewhere between 40-65 million in 2015 (the chargers have 66 million assigned salaries for 2015). A Polian protege probably means cost effective players at best, and keeping the 2015 salary mostly untouched.

    • Stefanie Smith

      The dead money from Gaither, Meachem and Cox (a little over $10 mill) is affecting the cap for this year. At first, I was going to say you were incorrect on your figures. At overthecap.com, it shows the Chargers with a $119,566,695 of cap spent so far. I was thinking that means we should have somewhere a little over $10 to $15 mill left. Nope. Have to take into account the “additional” dead money added to the cap calculation. That is a total of $12,543, 317 that gets added into the cap calculation and puts us at around $5 mill under the cap this year. That is, if overthecap.com’s numbers are correct.

      Yep, so things are tight. I didn’t look, but we must have paid Cox a signing bonus that is all hitting the books now. I expect TT is going to have to do another restructure. Still a little tight.

      • Sergio Quintero

        I hope they had more, I would release Clary & get Johnson to restructure at no more 1.5 million per year, not my call.

        • TheReturnOfMrBlanks

          I’m with you on that 100%

        • afroamongfew

          I wish, Clary has some bizarre voodoo-esque hold on the team.

          “Should we cut our ties with Clary?”
          **Clary waltzes by, waves incriminating photos and videos at Tom Telesco and co.**
          “…No, we clearly need to remain CONSISTENT with our team…

          Yeah…”

          • Sergio Quintero

            Back in 2011 when he signed his deal the boys at Walterfootball shared your interpretation of his contract, by giving this grade on his signing:

            Chargers re-sign OT Jeromey Clary (4 years, $20 million): F Grade

            At this point, I’m convinced that Jeromey Clary has naked pictures of general manager A.J. Smith. There’s no other explicable reason why the Chargers would give such a terrible right tackle this much money. The Chargers should have found an upgrade for Clary years ago; they’ve failed to do so, and instead basically lit $20 million on fire.

  • Sergio Quintero

    Just to remind everyone what the market prices are:

    Everson Griffen DE Vikings, resigned for 5 years 42.5 million

    • Julien Bélair

      I really don’t get this deal the guy never put up 10 sacks in a season

      • Gunnar Martin

        Potential vs proven production.

        • Julien Bélair

          He will enter his what fourth? fifth season? not so much on potentiel AND production. It will be a bust deal. At least this is the way I sew it

          • Gunnar Martin

            He hasn’t really started much yet since he was behind Jared Allen. Or something like that. Anyways, he has a good chance at growing into a Pro Bowl-caliber player sooner or later.

          • Julien Bélair

            With that kind of money he better perform !

  • RoyalChargers

    Just get Linval Joseph or a whoever they think is the answer at NT and resign some of our own key players i.e Rinehart. Then focus on the draft Bradley Roby and Kyle Fuller are corners we should target (both will be special) as well as Kyle Van Noy and Dee Ford in the first 2 rounds.

    • Sergio Quintero

      I’m nervous on Roby, I saw Jared Abredderis a 3rd round level WR torch him for over 200 yards in their matchup, and Robinson went for 160 on Ohio St. as well (didn’t see that one). Better athlete than player at this point.

    • Diegoblue

      I like Fuller and Roby .. If Roby can play to his potential he will be dangerous .. That’s “if” however ..

      • Sergio Quintero

        Verrett is probably the best fit, because Pagano loves off coverage with some zone principles, with his excellent feet and ball skills seems a natural. Dennard seems like a total non fit.

        • Diegoblue

          Yeah I like Verrett even though he’s only 5’9.. He’s real aggressive.. Dennard I’m not so big on .. I watched him play a few games for the Spartans as wasn’t that impressed.. I think we get a better CB than him @ the 25 spot no need to reach

          • Sergio Quintero

            The fact he’s just under 5’10 is the reason he’s available at pick 25, he would be a top 15 pick if he were 5’11. High level of play, fits the scheme, major need, sign me up.

          • Gunnar Martin

            Yes yes yes. Totally agree.

          • Michael Norton

            Agree that he would be a much higher pick if taller. Plus, he plays tall. That sounds kind of ridiculous, but I read that he’s got good hops and times his jumps well. I’m thinking Verrett makes the most sense as well. The Chargers are developing a (good) tendency of acquiring FOOTBALL players and not worrying so much about the Underwear Olympics.

          • Gunnar Martin

            Right. He almost makes too much sense.

        • Julien Bélair

          Verrett will be a beast

      • Sergio Quintero

        Roby is a ceilling player, that’s cool if you can have sit on the bench, but it sure doesn’t look like the chargers will find their starter opposite Wright in free agency as it looks right now.

        • Diegoblue

          I can’t see a starting CB from this group of FAs either since that crazy contract Shields just received..

  • Diegoblue

    The draft will be the way to go this year for CBs for us

    • Sergio Quintero

      Verrett & Fuller seem the most likely.

      • Diegoblue

        Wouldn’t be mad at either one of those choices ..

        • Julien Bélair

          Roby also but I am not sure that he is a TT kind of guy. Verrett is my favorite. I would select Verrett over Dennard

          • Gunnar Martin

            Verrett fits Pags’ scheme the best.

          • Julien Bélair

            Verrett fits every scheme I am very high on him ! but ya he does is a great fit with our DC

  • bolt up

    Antonio cromartie released by jets today

    • Diegoblue

      Yeah I jus saw that.. I say we turned the page a long time ago on AC.. Let it stay turned

    • Sergio Quintero

      If Pagano would be willing to go a press man coverage scheme, which he didn’t do for Cox in 2013 (even though everybody said he struggled in off coverage), it would make a whole lot of sense, but I know Pagano too well he would be wasted here.

      • tubbs45

        spot on brother…

  • Sergio Quintero

    Add another WR interested in playing for the chargers, Hakeem Nicks has the chargers on his list, and is willing to take a 1 year prove it deal.

    • bolt up!

      Just read it I would take him

      • Sergio Quintero

        If the chargers are certain Floyd isn’t coming back, I can’t trust Brown starting alongside Allen, because of the chargers cap situation they probably have a better shot of getting Nicks on 2-3 year deal rather than a 1 year contract.

        • Julien Bélair

          He wants a long term deal anyway so 3-4 years. But with all the talent in the draft I rather spend the money on a NT

          • Gunnar Martin

            This

          • boltingindiego

            to prove hes worth a long term deal and his health problems are in the past i see him taking a 1 year incentive laden contract to show hes worth a long term deal next free agency. It would be a huge gamble for a team to give nicks a long term contract after his 2 past seasons.

          • Julien Bélair

            I agree with you but he will try to get his long term deal with a team anyway…. we will see if he will get it. big gamble for the team that will give it to him

        • afroamongfew

          Here’s the only reason you’ll need for why we need a legitimate #2 receiver, because opposing defenses don’t feel like they need to respect our non-KA13 receivers: https://twitter.com/The_KP_Show/status/442855308717588480/photo/1

          • Sergio Quintero

            How many games did Brown go zero catches, it has to be at least 4, dude went goose-egg in 400 yard game for his QB vs. KC, that coverage you’re seeing above is just the start if they can’t find someone decent.

          • afroamongfew

            It’s just so bizarre how Brown regressed. I don’t think he’s a lost cause, but we still need to find a guy who can step up and produce NOW.

          • Sergio Quintero

            If you want to be nice about him you can argue that maybe he was still affected by the broken ankle and he hasn’t recovered all of his explosiveness, yeah I’m also not buying either, not strong enough to beat press, not fast/quick enough to be starting corners.

    • Michael Norton

      Nicks needs to rebuild his career and I’m not big on that from the Chargers’ point of view. He’s going to get a lot of money and he’s not the same guy he was a few years ago. (I had him on my fantasy team.) Plus, he’s a character problem kind of guy.

      • TheReturnOfMrBlanks

        I thought he was taller then 6’0

        • Gunnar Martin

          He’s 6’1

  • Derek

    I’d take nicks over Kenny britt for a nice 3 yr deal that’s competitive I think him an Allen can be as formidable as Jeffry and marshall

  • Padraigh Keogh

    Does anyone think getting Antonio Cro back, after Jets released him, is a good idea? 29 years old… not saying do it but if was cheap?

    • afroamongfew

      Nope.

    • Gunnar Martin

      I’m done with that loser.

    • Michael Norton

      When Cro pussed out on that tackle of Shonn Greene in our playoff game against the Jets I was done with him. Most certainly don’t want him back. He’s past his prime. No way we go after him.

  • Tazzster

    This has got to be the most sensible Free Agent article I have read.

    I love this line…. A player at the peak of his earning potential is often at the beginning of his athletic decline.

    Free agents are typically overpaid…. especially the big name guys.

    The deal is the Chargers can’t afford much. I would not expect them to sign any big name guys. Look for them to pick under a couple of guys on the low end of the radar that they think they can coach into being better players.

    Look at last years signings and you should get an idea of where we are headed this year…

    Dunlap
    Woodhead
    Ornberger
    Rhinehart

    Each one is on the roster for less than 1 million a piece

    • Michael Norton

      Totally agree with you here, Taz. One look at the 4 guys you list and you can put good money on the Chargers NOT signing a big name. BUT (and that’s a BIG but), we got more than expected out of each of those players– which goes to Telesco’s (and company) ability to evaluate talent.

      • Sergio Quintero

        Not every position is equal, a QB in particular a pocket passing specialist is a position with a very long shelf life, you think the Saints don’t love their deal with Bress. Pocket Passers will play past 37 with surprising regularity, and both Manning & Brady should play well into their 40′s.

        But RB’s are a different story, a starting RB is facing the legendary 30 years old cliff, and so very few a not affected by it, clearly Tomlinson once he hit the magically year was showing massive signs of decline. In general you are almost always better served drafting a young RB then giving your current workhorse back an extension.

        What is a fact is that certain position are rare to find elite players available without a franchise tag, position like QB, LT, pass rushers, corners, the elite rarely if ever hit the market.

        There are players every year worth the big deal, but there are more players that get overpaid when multiple teams are bidding for their services, in a league were many teams sign their players before hitting the market or slap those elite players with franchise tags, it leaves teams with money to spend having to bid on middle level players or just under elite status, but to get those players signed you have to be the team that offers the most money, the danger of an open market.

  • arnie

    Great Article Michael.

  • julian vesga is chargerfan#21

    Hey guys ronnie brown should be switched to fullback he’s a veteran how should help our young running back group and be a starter at the same time at fullback what do you think

    • Gunnar Martin

      Honestly, I think it’s just his time. He’s old, not very good, and his contract has expired. He doesn’t really have the build for a fullback either. It’s simply too convenient to let him go.