San Diego Chargers Contract Disputes Drag on as Training Camp Nears

Jay BrownContributor IJuly 24, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20:  (L-R) Marcus McNeill #73, Philip Rivers #17, LaDainian Tomlinson #21, Craig Davis #84 and Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers huddle up against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game on January 20, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Patriots won 21-12. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

When veterans are scheduled to report to Chargers Park a week from today for the start of training camp, three key components of the Chargers continued sucess will be absent. Linebacker Shawne Merriman, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and offensive tackle Marcus McNeill will all be no-shows.

What, might you ask, would keep these three players from reporting to camp?

Two words...Contract disputes.

Once again, the dreaded holdout rears its ugly face at the beginning of training camp, and it's not just one player this time.

Of the three players involved in contract disputes, Merriman is the only one considering singing the $3.269 million tender he was offered back in March and salvaging his chances of playing this season.

The Chargers are going to have high expectations for Merriman should he want a long-term deal from San Diego.

Merriman is coming off two injury-plagued season, including reconstructive knee surgery during that time. He has yet to show the explosiveness and intensity that made him well known as "Lights Out" during his first two seasons with the Chargers.

Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are very committed to seeing their holdouts through to the end. Both Jackson and McNeill failed to sign their tenders by the June 15 deadline Chargers general manager A.J. Smith had imposed, which significantly reduced the value of their one-year tenders.

Had both Jackson and McNeill signed their tender offers before the deadline, Jackson would have made $3.268 million for the 2010 season, and McNeil would have made $3.168 million. Now, if either of them wants to play this season they will be making around $600,000 apiece.

Both players are unhappy because they both want the long-term deals they both feel they deserve. I happen to agree. Jackson and McNeill are essential components to the Chargers should they want to make a run for the Super Bowl.

Vincent Jackson had an amazing 2009 season, in which he led the Chargers with 1,167  receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Jackson was also rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Marcus McNeill, who is a two-time Pro Bowler, is an essential piece to the Chargers offensive line. He protects the blind side of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. However, with McNeill being absent the Chargers have found a replacement at left tackle, but that replacement could prove too costly as in an unforeseen injury to Rivers.

The uncertainty of football being played next season or not have been a major factor of many teams not siging players to long-term deals, plus the Chargers have several players whose contracts are up after the 2010 season that require immediate attention (tight end Antonio Gates is among them) and the Chargers are going to get those deals done first.

So, what could we expect to happen regarding these contract disputes/holdouts?

Merriman, if he decides to sign his tender and play this season, it could end up his last wearing a Chargers uniform unless A.J. Smith happens to see the light and sign Merriman to a long-term deal. The Chargers could also end up trading Merriman away for players or a draft-choice.

As for Jackson, 2009 may have been his last season in a Chargers uniform. San Diego has an impressive receiver corps and will have no problem spreading the ball around to the likes of Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Naanee, and rookie Seyi Ajirotutu.

If Jackson intends to see his holdout through until the end of the season he is only going to end up hurting himself in the terms of the value of the contract he is seeking. Last time I checked, teams don't offer big money, long-term deals to receivers who haven't played in a year.

The Chargers have let it be known that they are open to trading Jackson, and that trade would definitely yield a high draft pick.

McNeill, is the only one of the three that would have the strongest chance of getting a long-term deal done. The Chargers need McNeill to protect their long-term investment in quarterback Philip Rivers, especially if they want to continue the productivity Rivers has given the team over the past four years.

Only time will tell if any one or all of these scenarios plays out. All that could be said as of right now is that it will be interesting to see how of this all unfolds. I only hope that Chargers do what is in the best interest of the team and finally bringing a Lombardi trophy home to San Diego.