Everyone knows that AJ Smith is a no BS kind of guy. He laid out his offers for the big restricted free agents and he refuses to budge.
He also shipped away people with age, injury, and behavioral issues this offseason (see Antonio Cromartie and Jamal Williams most of all).
In light of all that, Smith could very well say goodbye to all three remaining RFAs. However, I don't see that happening. Marcus McNeill is too valuable, and Merriman needs to sign to prove that he still has gas in the tank.
Vincent Jackson, though, is another issue entirely.
Vincent Jackson is a star, there's no doubt about that. However, he has a few things working against him in this ongoing negotiation:
1. Behavior: Vincent Jackson has a drinking problem. He has a few DUIs on his record, including one that came right before the playoff game last year against the New York Jets.
Continued behavior like this is bad for Jackson and bad for the team. He is fooling himself if he believes that he is going to get Brandon Marshall kind of money from any team outside of maybe the Jets (they have a habit of taking on head cases).
2. Backups: One of the things that the Chargers are known for above all else is the quality of their depth. The best example may be the players that stepped up to sub in on the offensive line last season.
So, consider that players behind Vincent Jackson on the depth chart:
1. Malcolm Floyd - Floyd is an underrated receiver who has the skills to move up to the number one spot. He is still a little unpolished, but he'll do fine as a go to guy.
2. Legedu Naanee - Naanee is an above average slot receiver, but that isn't necessarily what makes him so valuable. Naanee can do things that the other receivers can't, like run the reverse or throw passes. Naanee is an underrated asset on the Chargers squad.
3. Buster Davis - Davis can be successful, but that is contingent on his health. If Davis can stay healthy this season, he could easily change out with Naanee, or possibly take on the wideout spot.
4. Undrafted Rookie Free Agents - I will refrain from using names here because I honestly don't know enough about the rookie crop to assume which one will make the roster. However, they all seem to have potential, and they all definitely have the size to be a part of the 'basketball team'.
3. Antonio Gates: Gates deserves his own category. He is a constant threat over the middle which really helped Jackson and Floyd put up big numbers last year. I expect Gates to be Philip Rivers' go to target next season (provided Jackson is gone).
Vincent Jackson does have a few things in his favor though:
1. Talent: Jackson is a monster. While some of his success had to do with Gates taking the attention away from the outside, it is hard to deny his talent. Jackson has the potential to go to a few more Pro Bowls in his career, and having that happen in San Diego would be a big help.
2. Backups: Ironically, what could go really well could also go horribly wrong. The people behind Jackson on the depth chart may not be ready for their new roles. This is a boom or bust scenario.
In the end, I see the smartest decision in this case to be a trade. Here's a quick breakdown of how it would work by the teams potentially interested:
1. Seattle: Seattle needs a stud wideout, and Jackson would fit nicely in that capacity for the Seahawks. In terms of value, I could easily see the Seahawks giving up a first round pick and possibly a third or a fourth.
2. Jacksonville: Look at it this way: Jacksonville lacks a true size receiver. Having a person who can body up a defender and grab jump ball kind of passes would help David Garrard and the Jags playoff hopes. I would expect the same kind of deal that Seattle would offer.
3. Buffalo: The Bills' passing attack last year was miserably bad. Part of that was inconsistency at quarterback, but it also had a little to do with wide receiver talent. A player like Vincent Jackson can really help out the Bills as they attempt to rebuild their team.
Ultimately this is all conjecture, but anything is possible. AJ Smith is a brilliant businessman. If he sees that this is a smart move, he will absolutely take it.