2006 third-round draft pick Charlie Whitehurst has found himself mired at the bottom of San Diego’s depth chart.
The team has its long term answer at quarterback in Philip Rivers, one of four players to earn MVP votes in 2009. Behind him they are also extremely well served with Billy Volek entrenched in the backup role.
The duo has given the team tremendous strength and depth at the position, but it has also wedged Charlie Whitehurst out of any chance at taking snaps in a San Diego uniform.
He has shown all the tools to be a starting quarterback. At 6’4’’ and 220 pounds, he has the athleticism and fluidity to build on. Were San Diego to lose Volek, Whitehurst has shown enough that they would probably be comfortable inserting him into the number two role.
Whitehurst went into this offseason a restricted free agent. San Diego assigned him the lowest tender, which means a team would have to part with a pick from the same round in which Whitehurst was drafted if they were to sign him away.
The team’s low tender may also signal a willingness to talk if a team wants to negotiate, allowing for a package slightly below a third-round choice in overall value.
It would all be moot were no team interested, but that does not appear to be the case.
Overt talks have not begun anywhere, but at least two teams have shown up in the ever-popular rumor mill regarding Whitehurst.
Arizona has only one quarterback on its roster in the so-far unimpressive Matt Leinart. The team has expressed its faith in the young signal caller but at the very least needs to find depth at the position.
Whitehurst would give them a depth-player that is still relatively cheap to acquire and young enough to remain with the team awhile. He could give subtle competition for a starting role without presenting an overt threat to Leinart (as a savvy vet might provide).
Kurt Warner's retirement left Arizona in a lurch and the team is unlikely to grab a quarterback early in this year’s draft. Picking up an inexpensive young player with some upside and a career spent in one of the league’s better passing offenses the past few years could be a great low-risk move for the team.
Seattle has also appeared in the conversation for Whitehurst. The Seahawks traded away longtime backup Seneca Wallace and at the very least someone behind Matt Hasselbeck in the short term, and a new franchise face in the long-term.
The Seahawks lack a third-round choice, having traded it away to draft Deion Butler last season, but could work out an alternative trade arrangement with the San Diego. Their fourth-round choice would not be far from Arizona’s third—Arizona holds the 88th pick in the draft’s third round to Seattle’s 101st pick in the fourth.
Seattle is well stocked at the top of the draft, and doesn’t have the win-now pressure other teams could be facing. Head coach Pete Carroll made a career of churning out NFL quarterbacks at USC—four of which are NFL starters at this point (Leinart, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Cassel).
Both Seattle and Arizona have already brought Whitehurst in for visits. The Cardinals would appear to have the more pressing need for a quarterback, but Seattle represents a situation well suited to landing Whitehurst.
Either way, the true benefactor could be San Diego. The team already has the short and long term answers as well as depth all taken care of at the position. Losing Whitehurst would represent a nonexistent subtraction to the team’s lineup while possibly adding a draft pick as high as the third round.
Given that San Diego has a host of smaller needs to go with the pressing ones at nose tackle, running back, and corner, allowing Charlie Whitehurst to sign an offer sheet elsewhere could be one of the team’s best moves of the offseason.