San Diego Chargers Look To Big Money Savings without Salary Cap

Jay BrownContributor IMarch 2, 2010

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Malcom Floyd #80, Vincent Jackson #83 and Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers walk on the field during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the New York Jets at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

With what could be considered the best restricted free agent class of any team in the NFL, the San Diego Chargers look to benefit the most from the potential big money savings of 2010 being an uncapped year.

The Chargers placed a first- and third-round draft pick tender on four prized players with the hope of keeping them on the roster at significantly reduced price. Those players are linebacker Shawne Merriman, offensive tackle Marcus McNeil, and wide receivers Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson.

Shawne Merriman is scheduled to make $3.269 million in 2010, a guaranteed 10 percent raise from his 2009 salary. Vincent Jackson will make $3.268 million based on his five years of service in the league. Malcolm Floyd and Marcus McNeil both being in the league for four years will make $3.168 million.

It will be a raise for all four players, however it is far less than what they may have possibly made in salary and bonuses had they been unrestricted free agents.

San Diego will definitely come out ahead, at least in the short term.

The Chargers will have to pay $12.873 million total to those four players, rather than possibly spending upwards of $50 million in guaranteed money in potential long term deals.

That is a $37.127 million savings!

However, this is short term and could potentially back fire on the Chargers. Even with or without a salary cap, the Chargers will have to end up paying out big money very soon. Many of the Chargers key top dollar players will become unrestricted free agents over the next one or two seasons and will be looking for hefty raises.

Former Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2010 and the Chargers will make it a priority in getting him signed to a long term deal.

Both Merriman and Jackson will be unrestricted free agents in 2011, barring either signing a long term contract with the Chargers or another team this offseason.

Odds are if Merriman isn't signed away by another team in 2010, that he probably won't be back in 2011.

Merriman has fallen out of place with Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, not only for his off field activities (arrested at his home in September 2009 on allegations of battery, and false imprisonment), but also because his production isn't anywhere near what it use to be. He missed the 2008 season because of injury, and hasn't come close to returning to the explosive playmaker he once was.

The biggest question on any NFL players mind is: Will there be football in 2011?

With no new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for the 2011 season and on-going bargaining sessions between the NFL Players Association and the league not making any headway, the future of football is uncertain. 

NFL owners have stated they plan on locking out players for the 2011 season if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn't in place by then.

Let's hope Chargers president and CEO Dean Spanos, and general manager A.J. Smith know what they are doing.

It would be a shame to see a San Diego team that has risen to such greatness over the past five seasons only go to shambles, and remind us of those horrible Chargers years during the late 80's and mid 90's that can't seem to be forgotten.