Is Eric Weddle Expendable for the San Diego Chargers?

[caption id="attachment_12" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Free Agent FS Eric Weddle"][/caption]

As I was sifting through the headlines this week, trying to pull out the useful information from courtroom jargon, the Ohio State football scandal, and continued discussions over a free agency period that might not end up happening, I came across an interesting headline: Report: Jags could puruse Eric Weddle.

I don't know about all of you, but this one has me a little nervous.

For those of you who are about to flame me off of the internet for defending a player that many San Diego Chargers fans seem disillusioned with, hear me out before lighting your torches and sharpening your pitchforks. Allow me first to give a couple of arguments.

Let's start with a basic roster breakdown to see where the Chargers are at for both safety positions:

Free Safety: 1. Eric Weddle 2. Darrell Stuckey 3. Marcus Gilchrist (could play corner or safety)

Strong Safety: 1. Steve Gregory 2. Bob Sanders 3. Paul Oliver 4. Quentin Jammer (Could be moved) 5. Marcus Gilchrist

There really isn't a whole lot of elbow room on the depth chart as it stands. Darrell Stuckey barely saw the field last year, and asking Steve Gregory or Paul Oliver to step back and play a center field-type role seems a little out of their wheelhouses, as both seem much more comfortable playing up close to the line in run support.

Let's say, though, that the depth chart is not a big deal. Let's get a little theoretical then. Though most people won't admit it, Weddle is a good player. He is not, and probably never will be, a Troy Polomalu-like difference maker, but he is consistent, and that is exactly what the Chargers need right now. San Diego has gone through incredible changes on defense over the last couple of season, going from one of the best in 2006/2007 to one of the worst in 2008/2009 and back to the best in 2010 (incredible swings for only four years). Now, with the introduction of a new defensive coordinator this coming season, the Chargers defense is set to undergo another radical change. Personnel consistency is going to be essential in a clean, effective transition, if only because it will be the only consistency that San Diego can cling to at this point.

[caption id="attachment_14" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Eric Weddle returns an interception for a touchdown"][/caption]

That aside, even Weddle's numbers don't lie. He's been over 80 tackles per season since his rookie year (when he had 53 without a single start), and his interception and pass deflection numbers continue to increase. In a patchwork secondary consisting of a potential first-round draft bust, a back up turned starter and an aging veteran, Weddle has done a solid job and really seems to have the most promising future among the group.

Now that I'm done defending him, and hopefully now that I have at least some of you following me here, it should be clear that Eric Weddle is a player that the Chargers would like to keep.

Here's the hard part then.

Rumor has it that the Jaguars would be willing to offer Eric Weddle good money, money that Chargers General Manager AJ Smith seems to be unwilling to shell out. Apparent issues over various contract details in the negotiation process have had both sides at odds for months, and things don't appear to be getting any brighter, especially since Smith has a history of unwillingness to pay out.

So, as it stands, reading the signals is a difficult task. The moves by the Chargers, both in the draft and in the signing of Bob Sanders, as well as an understanding of Weddle as a player and the San Diego Chargers as an organization, could indicate two possible actions:

1. The Chargers intend to let Eric Weddle go. He will be replaced by either Marcus Gilchrist, Darrell Stuckey, or (possibly) Quentin Jammer.

2. The Chargers intend to bring Eric Weddle back. He continues to get better, and the signing of Bob Sanders indicates a conscious effort on the part of the upper management to find a solid starter at the strong safety position to couple with Weddle.

Plain football intelligence would have the San Diego Chargers bring Weddle back at a reasonable price to provide a solid player in the secondary as well as some well-needed consistency, but most San Diego fans are well aware of how irrational personnel moves can seem some times. I will update the situation when more information comes in, but, for now, keep your eyes on the situation, because it can certainly be a defining moment for the San Diego Chargers this offseason.

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