NFL Trade Rumors: Shawne Merriman's Five Possible Destinations

Jack WinterCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2010

NFL Trade Rumors: Shawne Merriman's Five Possible Destinations

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    Since being selected 12th overall by the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft, OLB Shawne Merriman has proven to be one of the league's most explosive players.

    Problem is, he's exhibited that tendency off the field as much as he has on it.

    Mired in consistent legal troubles, contract battles, and injury rehabilitation, for the last couple of years Merriman has been a shell of the defensive player some considered to be the NFL's best as recently as 2007.

    As he's been on the trading block for half his career, it is clear he is not in San Diego's long-term plans. After OLB Shaun Phillips' dynamic Week 5 performance as the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, Merriman has never been more expendable for the Chargers.

    Obviously, San Diego would rather trade the former star than cut him. Where might Merriman end up if he is traded?

    Following are potential destinations and the best fits for one of the NFL's most controversial players.

New England Patriots

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    The Patriots, one of the NFL's first teams to fully utilize a 3-4 defense, have not had the success rushing the passer in 2010 that they have become accustomed to over the years.

    That could be fixed with the acquisition of Merriman, who once was the most feared QB headhunter in the game.

    New England currently starts journeyman Rob Ninkovich and accomplished rusher Tully Banta-Cain at OLB. While the former had two interceptions and a sack against Miami on Monday night, he is best suited for a backup role. On the other side, Banta-Cain is a good pass rusher, having posted 10 last season for the Patriots.

    With Banta-Cain on one side and Merriman on the other, the much maligned New England defense would make sizable strides toward getting to the QB and take pressure off its young secondary.

Arizona Cardinals

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    With S Adrian Wilson, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and DEs Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, the Arizona Cardinals certainly don't lack talent on the defensive side of the football.

    However, all that talent hasn't served them well thus far in 2010, as they rank near the league's bottom in multiple defensive statistics.

    Part of the problem for Arizona is that they have had trouble pressuring the QB, having garnered only seven sacks on the season.

    In their 3-4 scheme, Merriman would be a perfect fit opposite former star Joey Porter at one OLB spot. While the two of them certainly aren't the players they were three years ago, they still would form one of the league's best pass-rushing LB duos.

    Without QB Kurt Warner, the Cardinals offense needs all the help it can get from the defensive side of the ball. Adding a rusher like Merriman to the mix certainly wouldn't hurt.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Though the Kansas City Chiefs boast one of the league's most improved defenses, they haven't been nearly as good against the pass this season as they have against the run.

    In OLB Tamba Hali and CB Brandon Flowers, the Chiefs possess a threat rushing the passer and a lockdown cover corner. The two of them could be greatly benefited, though, by the presence of a player like Merriman playing opposite Hali.

    While this is an unrealistic scenario given Kansas City and San Diego are in the same division (not to mention GM Scott Pioli's aversion to players who have attitude issues), Merriman would help the Chiefs in their march toward the playoffs as much as he would any other team in the league.

    For their sake, Kansas City is sure to be thrilled with Merriman's problems with the Chargers, as he would prove vital in their quest to catch the Chiefs in the race for the AFC West crown.

Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers lead the NFL in sacks with 16 in just four games. OLB Clay Matthews III is an early front runner for Defensive Player of the Year, as he alone has accounted for seven sacks.

    What's scary for the rest of the league is that Green Bay has had such success getting to the QB despite little to no production coming from the spot opposite Matthews. In fact, defensive coordinator Dom Capers recently named a new starter at right OLB—undrafted free agent Frank Zombo.

    While the jury is still out on Zombo, Merriman would no doubt serve as an upgrade. In Matthews and Merriman, the Packers would boast far and away the league's best pass rushing tandem and improve on their already realistic aspirations of winning the NFC.

San Diego Chargers

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    In a perfect world, Merriman wouldn't be such a malcontent and would be happy as a San Diego Charger.

    Once OLB Shaun Phillips—currently second in the NFL with six sacks—came into his own in 2006, he and Merriman made up the league's most feared pass rushing attack. Between the 2006 and 2007 seasons, the two of them accounted for 49.5 sacks, easily leading the league in the process.

    Though they surely wouldn't rack up those numbers in 2010, Merriman would provide a legitimate pass rush threat opposite Phillips, who opponents will double-team more and more as the season wears on.

    San Diego currently boasts the league's most impressive team-wide statistics, ranking in the top 10 in passing and rushing yards, as well as passing and rushing yards allowed. Adding a healthy and motivated Merriman to the mix would only improve one of the league's most talented teams and would be substantial in the Chargers' attempt to catch Kansas City in the division race.

    However unlikely that is, San Diego fans can certainly dream.