The Los Angeles Chargers have decisions to make with their own free agents this offseason. Melvin Ingram and Jahleel Addae are unrestricted free agents, but not as many fans seem to be talking about inside linebacker Manti Te’o, who is also an unrestricted free agent.
Is that because fans have already moved on from him? In all likelihood, yes, and that’s not a bad thing. The Chargers would be just fine without him.
In 2012, Te’o was one of the best players in college football. In fact, he was in the running to win the Heisman Trophy, something that is almost unheard of for defensive players. He led his Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish all the way to the National Championship Game.
Some analysts felt he was a top-five pick in the NFL draft, but that all changed for him when the news broke of a girlfriend hoax. It’s one of the strangest stories in sports history, and one that forever changed the life of Te’o. He’d been expertly catfished.
His draft stock plummetted as a result. He still had the same skills, but what team wanted to deal with that distraction? He fell all the way out of the first round, but with the No. 38 overall pick, the Chargers decided that he had value and chose him.
He has spent the last four seasons with the Chargers. Now don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t played bad. His problem has been staying on the field. He’s missed at least one game in each of his first four seasons, including missing most of the season last year after tearing his ACL.
However, the biggest reason why the team can survive without Te’o is because of Jatavis Brown. Last year’s fifth-round draft pick out of Toledo played quite well in Te’o’s absence. He was so good that it will be impossible to keep him off the field going forward.
Of course, this was by design. Knowing that Teo’s contract was up last year, general manager Tom Telesco drafted not one, but two inside linebackers, also selecting Joshua Perry in the fourth round. Now that the front office has seen what Brown can do, the need to keep Te’o is minimal. Instead, the team can focus on shoring up other areas on the team through free agency such as finding another productive wide receiver or adding another defensive end now that the team will switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme.
The Chargers boldly selected Te’o in 2012 and he had some good games for the team. But that chapter has ended, and now the Bolts can allow him to go elsewhere.