San Diego Chargers' linebacker Shawne Merriman may have taken the most important steps towards putting on a different uniform when he fired longtime agent Tom Condon in favor of David Dunn.
What this tells us if nothing else is that Merriman has no intention of playing 2010 under the restricted free agent tender ascribed to him by the San Diego Chargers early in the offseason.
That tender, which would have offered up over $3 million in salary this year while allowing Merriman to troll the market as an unrestricted free agent in 2011, drew the pass-rushing linebacker’s ire after he felt he deserved a long term contract representative of three elite seasons.
San Diego general manager A.J. Smith felt otherwise. With last year’s first-round pick Larry English waiting in the wings and a 2009 season plagued by nagging injuries, the team remained unsettled on Merriman’s ability to truly regain his early career form.
It has been reported that at least three different deals were in the works to move Merriman to another team, two of which reached advanced stages before Condon put a wrecking ball to each when he shot down all contract offers the Chargers' prospective trade partners put his way.
Moving on from a contender was not a factor as the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints were among the teams attempting to negotiate for the linebacker’s services (though his fit within a 4-3 could be questioned).
Having failed to either secure a deal or trade, San Diego has not been shy about keeping him on the trading block, though efforts have been slowed by a historically contentious relationship between Smith and super-agent Condon, who also represents departed Chargers running back Ladainian Tomlinson.
Unloading Condon could pave the way to Merriman’s contract demands slipping down into a more reasonable status, which could speed along the trade process, although the impact of the lengthy ordeal may still be felt.
With the draft come and passed, San Diego will most likely pursue a 2011 draft pick over a player-for-player swap. This means they will have no immediate recompense for Merriman, drafting OLB insurance or simply putting the pick towards another position of need.
That concern is unfortunate but ultimately easy to overcome as the team would then benefit from an already top-heavy 2011 draft where they would have just that much more drafting power to either collect players New England Patriots-style or leverage those choices into trading up.
What pairs with it is the idea that Merriman’s value drops the longer his status remains unadressed.
Teams in need of a pass-rush have already taken steps to address the concern, be it via the draft (Miami and Koa Misi) or free agency (Arizona and Joey Porter). As the market goes down, so does the price.
What initially was thought of as getting respectable value for a departing player while they can may just wind up being a case of unloading a dissident for a bargain-price just to have the headache done with (see Holmes, Santonio).
Either way, there is hope now that agent David Dunn can help bring this issue to a close quickly, regardless of the outcome.