The first move that the LA Chargers made in free agency this offseason was signing veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks to a two-year, $13.25 million contract that essentially operates as a one-year deal.
At the time, it seemed like the Chargers were prepping for Drue Tranquill to get an expensive multi-year deal and wanted to bring in a veteran who could be a one-year stopgap to fill that void. However, that ultimately is not what happened.
Tranquill signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs and head coach Brandon Staley later confirmed that the team did not sign Kendricks as a replacement for Tranquill. Instead, the team wanted Kendricks and made sure to sign him as soon as they could.
The way this entire situation with Tranquill has played out has been odd but one thing is for certain: it hurts seeing a fan favorite leave to a division rival for a contract that will burn the Chargers in the long run.
Tom Telesco's peers certainly don't think the team handled the situation well. NFL personnel spoke with The Athletic's Mike Sando and reacted to all of the moves from free agency. When prompted about the Kendricks signing, an anonymous NFL exec did not mince their words and bashed the Chargers.
"'It’s Groundhog Day,' one exec said. 'Eric Kendricks is three years older than Drue Tranquill and has a lot more mileage on him. If Kendricks misses five games in his age-31 season, are we going to hear about more bad injury luck for the Chargers?' "
Chargers rightfully deserve criticism for how the team handled Drue Tranquill and Eric Kendricks.
Fans have a tendency to spin any signing in the most positive light possible. When it comes to Kendricks, fans look at his All-Pro selection from 2019 and his ability to stop the run, which was still better last season than Tranquill. But as fans are reminded every single year, football is played on grass and turf. It is not played on paper.
This is a common trend that the Chargers have fallen victim to in the past. The team pays players for past production and the result is often a veteran player who regresses (because players regress quickly in the NFL) or even run into injuries because they are over 30.
It happened with Bryan Bulaga, Chris Harris, Trai Turner. It very well could happen with Kendricks, who is making twice as much as Tranquill's base salary in 2023.
Does this guarantee that Kendricks is going to be a flop? Not at all. And perhaps the Chargers did expect Tranquill's price to be larger. But at the end of the day, the team got much older at the position and continued its trend of not re-signing its draft picks.
That is a flawed team-building strategy and that is why Tom Telesco has only made the playoffs three times as general manager and has never made it in back-to-back years. If Kendricks continues to regress or misses time with injury, it should not be a surprise.
This NFL exec is right. It is like Groundhog Day.