After being placed on injured reserve with a "minor-injury designation," the Chargers must release Shawne Merriman once he is healthy.
Effectively, Merriman's career in San Diego is over, bringing to an end a catastrophic fall from stardom for the 26-year-old linebacker.
After totaling 39.5 sacks in three seasons from 2005-2007, including 17 in 12 games in 2006 alone, Merriman has played in just 18 games since 2008 and has just four sacks.
Chargers fans yearn for the days when Merriman shot into the opposing team's backfield and punished their quarterback—long for the days when he was an intimidating force. For Merriman, those days, as a Charger, have passed.
But who's to say Merriman cannot turn his career around with another NFL team? If he gets healthy and lands on a team with the right scheme, he could be a solid contributor, if not the animal he once was. After all, he is just 26.
What teams might be interested in signing Merriman?
There is not a single division in the NFL that has taken to the 3-4 defense, the scheme that Merriman would best be utilized in, like the AFC East.
With the Buffalo Bills' recent change in defensive philosophy to the 3-4, the entire division utilizes the 3-4 as their base defense. On top of that, three out of the four teams in the AFC East rank in the bottom half of sack totals.
The Bills are adapting their personnel to the 3-4 scheme. Drafting Torell Troup and Alex Carrington in the first three rounds to beef up the defensive line is one step in that direction. But Aaron Maybin, a holdover first-round draft pick from the Dick Jauron regime, is not getting the job done at outside linebacker. Bringing in Merriman would be worth the risk for a team that lacks a real pass rusher.
The Patriots have only seven sacks in four games this season and still count Tully Banta-Cain as their best pass rusher. Merriman would be an upgrade for this roster.
Similarly, the Dolphins have just nine sacks in four games. They do have two pretty good pass rushers in Cameron Wake and Koa Misi, but 3-4 defenses can never have enough pass rushers at outside linebacker.
The Jets seem to be set with the return of Calvin Pace, but why not add them here anyway? Look what they have done with other former Chargers. Rex Ryan loves gifted athletes. Just think of what he could do with Merriman.
When the Denver Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil, they lost their best pass rusher, and it shows. The Broncos only have five sacks through five games!
Bringing in Merriman would give them a chance at having a legitimate pass rusher. It would also carry extra weight because Merriman would get to play in the same division as his former employers and get to play them twice a year.
Also adding to the need for a pass rusher is that Dumervil's replacement, Robert Ayers, is now out for months with an injury.
The Broncos are too hard up on pass rushers not to bite on Merriman.
This picture is circa 2006. That's Clark Haggans and Joey Porter sacking Peyton Manning as Steelers.
As head coach of the Cardinals, Ken Whisenhunt has made it a habit of collecting old Steelers. The problem is that most are past their prime. Haggans and Porter as your team's primary pass rushers might have been acceptable in 2006, but that was four years ago.
Both are now 33. The Cardinals have sacked the quarterback just eight times in five games. Bringing in Shawne Merriman would bolster their pass rush and make the Cardinals younger.
Or they could just sign James Harrison in a few years.
Manny Lawson is a good football player. But he hasn't turned into the dynamic player the 49ers thought they were drafting in 2006.
For that matter, the entire San Francisco defense is just kind of bland. They are a decent group, really kind of average. They lack any dynamic player.
Patrick Willis is great, perhaps the best inside linebacker in the league. But inside linebackers are not what we'd call "sexy."
The 49ers need a dynamic, explosive force on their defense. Why not bring Merriman in and give him a shot to be that force? He wouldn't need to move very far from San Diego if he were to come to San Francisco, and this team could use a shot of adrenaline.
The Chiefs' pass rush consists of Tamba Hali and a group of defensive linemen that probably got their sacks because the quarterback ran into them while running away from Tamba Hali.
Mike Vrabel, who occupies the other outside linebacker spot, is even older than Clark Haggans and Joey Porter.
The Chiefs are a hard-working team that plays smart but lacks talent. Taking a chance on Merriman would be worth the gamble. Imagine what Romeo Crennel could do with Shawne Merriman.
As is the case with the Broncos, wouldn't it be great for the Chiefs to stick it to the Chargers by acquiring their former pass rushing star and letting him play his former team twice a year?
For the Chiefs, like the other teams on this list, buying low on Merriman is a small risk, large reward scenario that is too good to pass up.