The 2011 NFL free-agent frenzy has been off to a spectacular start.
The San Diego Chargers have retained a successful core of players and added a couple aging stars.
Eric Weddle was a high priority—maybe the Chargers' highest. A.J. Smith made a point to sign his young free safety, thus making Weddle the highest paid safety in the league.
It used to be that the best player was the highest paid, but now it is the most recent free agent.
How did Eric Weddle become the highest paid safety without appearing in one Pro Bowl?
Most often in the free-agent period, an agent must convince his client that he is an all-world talent and simultaneously convince a general manager that he needs his client's amazing abilities.
In 2003, David Boston’s agent, Mitch Frankel, did an excellent job convincing Boston how good he was. Boston’s head grew several hat sizes, and I’m pretty sure it is still growing today. The media became enamored with Boston, and most believed he was the best free-agent receiver in 2003.
Eric Weddle was a very sought-after free agent, so we are told by his agent, David Canter.
Canter allegedly had a list of teams pursuing his clients’ services. However, when the auction started turning into a high-stakes game of “who wants to make Weddle a mega-millionaire?” most of the name-dropping fell off.
According to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune, who spoke on the NFL Network, “To get Weddle, the Chargers fended off the Houston Texans, whose final offer was actually slightly richer than the Chargers’.”
The numbers and the sources for this statement were not disclosed.
The Houston Texans have an awful defense, finishing last year 29th in points allowed, last place in passing yards allowed, and last place in touchdown passes allowed with 33.
The Texans need help. It’s no wonder they are in the Asomugha stakes as well. Apparently, Houston will pay whatever it takes to buy a new secondary.
The San Diego Chargers, on the other hand, finished first in passing yards allowed.
A fierce pass rush led by Shaun Phillips and a solid cornerback tandem in Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason may have a greater influence on those numbers than the free safety's piling up 96 total tackles.
That Weddle has improved and will continue to improve is the thinking behind "paying for potential."
Early in 2008, Weddle was beaten for a game-winning touchdown against the not-so-good Carolina Panthers at home.
Yet he finished the season with 105 solo tackles.
The last game (which happened to be in the playoffs) of the 2009-10 season, Weddle was victimized by Shawn Greene, who trucked the safety on his way to a touchdown. Sure, Antonio Cromartie could have slowed Greene down, but replays do not lie.
Weddle was the last man and he was run through like a lawn mower through grass.
In a loss in December 2010 to the Oakland Raiders, Marcel Reece jumped over Weddle to secure a first down.
Reese is hardly comparable to Bo Jackson.
Weddle disappeared against the Raiders, while fellow free-agent safety Michael Huff of the Raiders appeared to step his game up.
The San Diego Chargers like Eric Weddle. Weddle’s a solid contributor and a team player.
However, the Chargers overpaid.
Weddle will make more money than other safeties that are physically superior. That being said, Weddle is a key ingredient in the makeup of a defense that played very well together last season.
Charger safeties now include Weddle, Bob Sanders, Darrel Stuckey, and Steve Gregory.
Without Weddle in that list, it sounds like this: former-great-now-injury-prone safety, unproven second-year player yet to start an NFL game, and physically incapable safety that was suspended for steroid use and is still slower and weaker than everyone else.
The Chargers needed Weddle. The price “jacking up” is on account of who believes whom.
If Canter didn’t have an agency full of clients already, he sure should by now.
After signing Takeo Spikes earlier in the week, the Chargers must find another starting inside linebacker. By overpaying on Weddle, the Chargers may not be able to afford Kevin Burnett.
An option the Chargers should look into is former San Diego State linebacker Kirk Morrison.
Morrison is an excellent middle linebacker that would accept less money to play so much closer to home.
Shoring up the linebackers will help Weddle not have to make so many one-on-one tackles on running backs.