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As is Smith's custom, GM in no free agency rush

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Friday, March 6, 2009
    By Nick Canepa

    Brash football men don't always heed the warning that they should enter the NFL's City of Free Agency at their own risk. There's one place to stay, and it's the Bates Motel. But they still choose to register, and even after a disastrous stay, they tell psycho proprietor Norman: “The shower was a bit harsh and bloody, but we'll be back.”

    The road in is fraught with peril, littered with mistakes. Even if you aren't up on Odyssey sea monsters, be aware you must pass Scylla on one side and Charybdis on the other. The bold and the desperate often have trouble keeping out of harm's way. The smart can live to play another day.

    Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith refuses to take that avenue, preferring the circular route, much to the dismay of many fans, who would like to see the team dive into the free agency pool as soon as the water rises in late February.

    “We're always quiet in the initial stages of free agency,” Smith says. “We observe, but we are involved in everything. I'm not a big believer in free agency, but there are guys we're looking at right now.”

    I can't say he's wrong. Have other teams signed free agents that could help the Chargers? No doubt. But at what cost? And there are absolutely no guarantees that these players, once paid what they think they're worth, are going to perform to their salary levels. Free agency's pages are filled with bad paragraphs.

    There's local evidence. Smith was assistant GM under John Butler when the Chargers brought in high-priced free agents such as defensive end Marcellus Wiley and receiver David Boston. Wiley had one decent season before going Hollywood. Boston was a nightmare. After Butler's death, Smith's first serious act as new GM was to get rid of Boston.

    Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, a terrific player with Tennessee but often viewed by some as an underachiever, just signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with Washington after becoming an unrestricted free agent. The Chargers didn't need him, but nobody needed him at that price. It's a ridiculous deal.

    Now that Haynesworth has the big dough, will he go all-out every down? Will any of the other free agents that have been quickly signed? It's a gamble. In some cases, it's a stupid gamble.

    The Cowboys just cut receiver Terrell Owens. The Chargers aren't going to touch that problem. Dallas also disposed of safety Roy Williams. San Diego can use a safety, but Williams never has been the best cover guy in The League.

    The Chargers have brought in a few free agents for a look this week: inside linebacker Kevin Burnett, formerly of Dallas, and Jermaine Phillips, a safety out of Tampa Bay who is known as a fierce hitter (he suffered two broken arms last year).

    Smith will tell you he already has signed a free agent, one of his own, when he brought back guard Kynan Forney, who was on the Chargers roster last year but didn't play. Still, he once served as a Pro Bowl alternate in Atlanta, and if the season were to start tomorrow, Forney probably would replace Mike Goff on the right side of the line.

    “Kynan never was called upon last year,” Smith says. “He's due to be penciled in at right guard. The coaches will decide that. (Guard) Kris Dielman was a free agent, tested the market and came back.”

    There's no question Dielman was a free agent and so was Forney. It's not even a matter of being technical. They were unrestricted free agents and chose to re-sign with San Diego.

    The Chargers need help, but I don't know how many of these high-end guys would have suited their needs. Many teams are gambling because they don't have that many good players.

    “Let the market settle,” Smith says. “We have people coming in. For some fans, it's like Christmas morning. There are the presents, let's open them quick. I don't agree with that. A lot of guys are on a rock 'n' roll tour now. Can you see me grabbing a guy by the ankles as he's leaving our building and begging him, 'Please, don't go to the airport! Please don't go!' It's more like, 'Thank you so much for your time. We'll keep you in mind.'

    “It's a philosophy. It's what I believe in. It's the way I operate. I'm not averse to the free agent market. A lot of people are afraid to make trades. I'm not. But we're not running to the airport and filling up a van with free agents.”

    Smith has been hammered this offseason, rightly so in a few cases. But let's not throw him into that Bates Motel shower when he's right.

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