It was originally stated that the team wished to find an NFC suitor to keep the athletic corner away.
The deal for Cromartie involves no other players, but instead exchanges the cornerback’s services for a 2011 third round draft pick (with the potential to become a second round choice). For the upcoming season, San Diego receives nothing in the way of compensation.
The move is peculiar and likely speaks more to the team’s desire to unload the former pro-bowler than anything else.
It was said that originally they had sought a running back in exchange for Cromartie’s services, and the best halfback they could actually involve in trade talks was Detroit Lions backup Maurice Morris.
The team considered the trade, but the sticking point fell with what would accompany Morris: San Diego wanted a fourth round draft choice, but Detroit was only willing to part with a fifth.
Now the team not only does not gain a running back in the deal, but also does not add any extra picks in the upcoming draft with which they could try to replace Cromartie.
The team already had glaring holes at running back and nosetackle, with Ladainian Tomlinson and Jamal Williams cut from the team in an effort to get younger and free up salary space. Right Tackle and defensive end were also positions of interest (if not of need).
Replacing Cromartie for now is the only other cornerback on the team’s roster in Antoine Cason. Cason will be entering his third season after going to San Diego in the first round of the 2008 draft. He impressed early but ultimately failed to hold onto his nickel-role as the season progressed.
It had been talked about that San Diego could potentially secure a third-round choice in the 2010 draft for Cromartie, but hesitations to pull the trigger led to a boost in the number of free agent cornerbacks. This rise in volume dropped his value enough for San Diego to settle for a third-round choice after the 2010 season from a team likely to choose in the bottom 10 of each round.
How will he be replaced? San Diego has a few options. They would be unlikely to pursue one of the big ticket names such as Dunta Robinson (who appears Atlanta-bound anyway). Signing a second-tier name to compete with Cason (and play the nickel should the younger player emerge a starter) is a possibility.
If the team elects to pursue a cornerback in the draft, they will be forced to make a decision. Do they draft yet another first round cornerback (Kyle Wilson?) and risk the nosetackle position (there are enough solid second to fourth round RBs to assuage that concern) or should the team try to find a second or third round gem to compete with Cason?
Donovan Warren is expected to slip down the draft board after a mediocre combine. He may be a little more raw coming out as a junior, but if he can slip to the third round, San Diego could get a steal.
Another possibility could be Brandon Ghee. With several second-round caliber corners in the draft, Ghee could fall to the Chargers as a nice pickup who has the size and speed to run with bigger, more athletic wide receivers.
Given how the team functioned in 2009, it would probably be in San Diego’s best interest to worry about nosetackle first and foremost, picking up a day two prospect instead.
A great nosetackle makes the entire front seven shine. A front seven firing on all cylinders can force quarterbacks to unload before coverage can break down. Taking a risk to try and land a true ‘shutdown’ corner runs a much more dangerous risk to reward ratio.
That said, at some point San Diego will have to start looking at its roster. Thus far, three major starters have been let go with very little left to replace them. They did a good job shaving payroll, now they need to find places to reallocate it if they wish to maintain their lead atop the AFC West.