Oct 4, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers free safety
(32) is introduced before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
These past couple of weeks, rumors were swirling around the trade deadline as to if the San Diego Chargers would trade away their All-Pro Safety Eric Weddle, with the team now essentially out of contention. Apparently four teams including the New York Giants and Pittsburg Steelers inquired about his services, but GM Tom Telesco remained firm in his public statement that San Diego would not field any offers for the captain of the powder blue defense, despite the fact that his contract expires at the end of this season.
This should be exciting for all Charger fans, because it means that they still haven’t given up on trying to sign Weddle, in spite of the preseason reports that contract negotiations went a little sour. It was spurred after guys like King Dunlap, Corey Liuget, and Brandon Flowers all received lucrative contracts. Although right now things are obviously tense between Weddle and the Chargers front office, he should undoubtedly be the priority this offseason to get a deal done. No matter what critics say about him, he is arguably the second best free safety in the game – behind Earl Thomas – and the unspoken leader of the defense, on and off the field.
Right now the Chargers have a couple of options, with the obvious one being to sign Weddle to a multi-year contract after the season is up. However, the other one would be to use the franchise tag on him. Based on the franchise tag average for safeties last offseason being $9.6 million, I would predict the cost to keep Weddle would be a little over $10 million. This isn’t really a steep price not only just because of his current salary, but because any future contract would likely cost San Diego an average annual value around that number anyways.
So go for it! The Chargers have made poor decisions in this area before and it’s not so often that a player of Weddle’s caliber is available to sign. Over the past 10 years, the Bolts have let former (multiple) Pro-Bowlers Drew Brees, Antonio Cromartie, and most recently Vincent Jackson all walk away in free agency. They’ve also recently let impact players such as Darren Sproles, Mike Tolbert, Michael Turner, and Shaun Phillips all go before their productive years were behind them.
While there are more examples I’m sure many Charger fans could think of, the fact is this: without Weddle, the defense is in disarray. Not to say it was performing remarkably better with him on the field, but there is a distinct disparity on the defensive side of the ball with him injured.
The franchise tag would be well worth paying the premium price for a game changer. Especially considering the fact that right now the defense consists of very few of those. We all understand the “potential” that Melvin Ingram and Liuget have, along with Manti Te’o and even Donald Butler, but right now the only bonafide; top-tier defender would be Eric Weddle. And on the San Diego Chargers, a team known historically for its bad defense, finding talent in that area is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Simply put, they can’t afford to let this one get away.