Shawn Merriman was once one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL.
But those days are so far gone that Chargers fans can hardly remember them.
Now, Merriman is set to be released sometime this week by San Diego after being placed on injured reserve last week by the team.
The Chargers must release Merriman once he's fully healthy, and he'll be able to sign with any team in the league once that happens.
Although Merriman hasn't been the same since his 2007 suspension for violating the league's substance policy, the Chargers could be making a bigger mistake than they realize.
A Merriman return to the Chargers could do wonders for a team that struggled to a surprising 2-4 start.
Let's take a look at the top 10 reasons why getting rid of Merriman could kill San Diego's playoff chances.
The AFC West is one of the most unpredictable divisions in football.
Prior to the 2010 season, I witnessed NFL analysts making predictions that had every single team winning the division. And six weeks into the season, it's still clearly up for grabs.
Only one team, the Chiefs, has three wins, while every other team has two.
Let's put Merriman back on the Chargers, and see what happens.
Why not? No one knows what's going to happen in that division anyway.
You can say that steroids were the main reason for Shawne Merriman's early success—there's no concrete way for me to prove they didn't help—but his best season came in 2006 when he played just 12 games after he was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
He also registered 12.5 sacks in 2007, when there's no way he was dumb enough to still be hitting the needle at the time.
So my argument is that the steroids didn't break the player, injuries did.
Merriman has been limited on the field by a surgically-repaired knee and foot and calf injuries that have bothered him the past two years.
Who's to say he doesn't just need more time to let his body fully recover?
The San Diego Chargers have uncharacteristically had two blackouts in their home TV market already this season.
Despite the success of the team in recent years, Chargers fans haven't been going to watch their team play, and there's even expected to be more blackouts this year.
It's funny how fans abandon their teams when they're struggling, but are captain of the bandwagon when they're playing well.
Maybe, just maybe, a Shawn Merriman return could spur enough interest in the team to get some fans in the stadium, yielding some wins as a result.
This is Shawne Merriman's sixth year in the league, but he's only 26 years old.
Most NFL players hit their prime when they're in their mid-20s, so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to give up on a guy like Merriman who could potentially have another four or five years of his best football years ahead of him.
At just 26, his career certainly isn't over.
And his presence on the league's No. 1 defense—in passing and total yards allowed—could help turn around San Diego's 19th-ranked scoring defense.
Despite what the league office may want you to believe, the NFL doesn't consist entirely of stand-up guys who read to children and donate money to charity.
Just about every good team has a player who comes with some type of baggage: an attitude problem, a knack for dirty play, legal troubles, etc.
Just take a look at some recent Super Bowl champions. The Saints had Jeremy Shockey, the Steelers had Ben Roethlisberger and the Giants had Plaxico Burress.
Every team needs a "bad guy." And San Diego's is Shawne Merriman.
Philip Rivers is my fantasy football quarterback, and I love the guy. He's one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league.
But Rivers has yet to show that he can carry the Chargers to victory in 2010.
He has had very real chances to lead San Diego to comeback victories in all four losses this season, but he hasn't been able to do that.
It's becoming more obvious every week that the Chargers will have to rely on defense to win, and having a guy like Merriman who has the potential for a big game can only help.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported earlier this week that the Ravens have expressed interest in signing Shawne Merriman once he clears waivers.
Baltimore reportedly only wants to sign Merriman if he's willing to take a low-money deal, but the Ravens are one of three teams—along with the Dolphins and Cowboys—on Merriman's wish list.
San Diego doesn't want to see Merriman lining up in a Ravens uniform.
Sure, he may not be the player he once was, but Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense could turn Merriman around very quickly.
Let's leave what Merriman's done off the field out of this—we always do that with Ray Lewis anyway—and take a look at what he does on it.
Merriman is one of the most animated, spirited guys you'll see on a football field. Roid rage jokes aside, he shows about as much energy on the gridiron as anyone in recent memory.
The Chargers have a very good defense, statistically at least, but without Merriman they lack that loud vocal presence that so many other teams possess.
The Chargers already have 21 sacks on the season, and 11 of those have come from linebackers Kevin Burnett and Shaun Phillips.
You might think that's proof that San Diego doesn't need Shawne Merriman. Quite the contrary, my friend.
If teams have to gameplan for Burnett, Phillips and Merriman, it will only provide Merriman's fellow linebackers with more sack opportunities.
After all, the linebackers are the ones making the most plays for San Diego, so another pass-rushing linebacker off the edge would give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares.
Shawne Merriman's two best seasons as a pro came during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, when he had 29.5 total sacks.
In those two seasons, the Chargers went 14-2 and 11-5 respectively, and began their string of four consecutive AFC West titles.
San Diego also went 9-7 during Merriman's rookie year when he registered 10 sacks and 57 tackles at just 21 year old.