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Deadline looms for Chargers' four RFAs

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, May 23, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    It may not be time to board up the windows, but be aware of a storm approaching.
    The Chargers’ purposefully late, streamlined offseason program commenced in earnest this past week. Players who attended talked about intensity and progress. Four late-morning practices were crisp and businesslike.
    Those who were notably not present at Chargers Park were discussed but not lamented. The football mentality demands focus be on who is on the field rather than who is not. And gorgeous spring days in San Diego, with the season still more than three months away, are not the time for worry.
    But with the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp beginning on Wednesday, there are dark clouds visible over the hillside lining the team’s Murphy Canyon headquarters.
    Rhetoric that revolves around contract issues is often like thunder that never ends up accompanied by lightning, the anticipated downpour never coming.
    But please be aware that there is a serious threat of this getting messy.
    Receivers Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson , left tackle Marcus McNeill and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman have stayed away from Chargers Park this offseason in protest over their contract status.
    The players, all restricted free agents, want long-term deals. The team is citing the labor uncertainty, as well as the fact they have many star players with pending contract issues, in not doling out the big bucks right now.
    Merriman signed a waiver protecting him in the event of injury and participated in a handful of conditioning sessions with teammates over the previous month, but he was united with the other three in being absent from this week’s coaching sessions.
    All four are expected to miss minicamp.
    And while none of the players or agents is talking publicly — “Why do that? A.J. doesn’t play,” said one person involved — there are rumblings from people close to the situation that as many as three of the four are prepared to sit out at least a portion of the 2010 season.
    First up, a soft deadline for restricted free agents to sign their tenders looms on June 15. At that point, if an RFA has not signed, teams have the right to essentially rescind their tender offers and simply pay a player 110 percent of his previous year’s salary.
    Yes, it’s a soft deadline. Teams don’t have to reduce the tender amount, and the risk in doing so would be souring the relationship even to the point of being irreparable.
    But would anyone associate Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith with soft?
    Smith would not discuss the June 15 implications. But as evidenced by the subtle messages infused in his carefully worded response to a question about the Big Four’s absence, he is definitely aware of the date and others that follow it.
    “I wish all of our players were here every day,” Smith said. “But that’s not the real NFL world we live in. Business decisions are being made by all parties. The players and their agents, I’m sure, are discussing what’s best for them. It’s their absolute right to do so, and I fully understand.
    “I don’t know what they are thinking, and I have no idea when we’ll see them again or if we will ever see them again. This I do know: the upcoming season will be on us very soon. Whoever we have as Chargers, we go with. I don’t spend much time speculating on who will be here or when they will be here.”
    The Chargers’ Big Four are trapped in a side effect of the uncapped year arising from the pending expiration of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. They were scheduled to be unrestricted after last season, which would have brought all four long-term deals and many more millions.
    As of Friday, more than 40 RFAs leaguewide remained unsigned, about twice as many as usual this time of year. Some were participating in their team’s offseason programs.
    Only the Cleveland Browns have more RFAs unsigned and sitting out. The Browns have five RFAs, all with second-round tender offers, skipping organized team activities. Cleveland’s minicamp doesn’t begin until June 11. The New Orleans Saints have five RFAs unsigned, but three have been participating in offseason workouts, and their minicamp is also in June.
    Chargers defensive lineman Travis Johnson, also caught up in the labor mess, has not signed his $1.226 million tender offer but is fully participating in the offseason program after signing an injury waiver.
    Smith said he was “real happy” Johnson has chosen “to be with his teammates working out.”
    Johnson, unlike the Big Four, has been with the Chargers just one season and acknowledges he is still trying to establish himself after injury issues.
    The Chargers players who are staying away were given the highest tender, which means they would make more than $3 million in 2010. Three of them would make significantly less if the Chargers exercised their June 15 right. Floyd would drop from $3.168 million to $1.7 million, Jackson from $3.268 million to $600,000 and McNeill from $3.168 million to $583,000. (Merriman is already scheduled to make 110 percent of his ’09 salary, so June 15 holds no sway over his $3.269 million pay.)
    As for whether Smith will pull the trigger, one agent with Chargers clients (none of which are holding out) said, “Of course he will.”
    Others who have dealt with Smith were skeptical even he would make that move, but no one doubted he was capable.
    “There is no reason to do it,” said one agent. “But knowing A.J., he could.”
    There is this dire prediction from another agent: “If they do that, they’re not going to see the player until the 10th week of the season.”
    That is a reference to the fact that players must be on full-pay status for six weeks in order to earn an accrued season.
    Arguably, the Chargers’ expected continued AFC West domination is largely contingent on Jackson, McNeill and Merriman being on the team. They have participated in one, two and three Pro Bowls, respectively. Jackson is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, McNeill protects the blind side of a $92 million quarterback, and even an injured Merriman made the Chargers’ defense better in 2009.
    Jackson and McNeill have perhaps the most leverage, given that the drop-off for the Chargers would be precipitous if either were not to play. Floyd, while sensational in 2009, needs another season to truly break out. Merriman is coming off two seasons plagued by injury and a productive ’10 is crucial to his getting the biggest possible free-agent deal in 2011.
    “It’s risky on both sides,” said one agent.
    All we can do now is wait for June 15 and the impending stare down.
    It is this, from an agent who has dealt with the team, perhaps most giving the storm threat credence: “Dealing with the Chargers, there is no bluffing.”
  2. MasterOfPuppets

    MasterOfPuppets Charger fan since 1979

    Aug 8, 2006
    some of you don't like AJ but I actually like that agents think that way
  3. CoronaDoug

    CoronaDoug Official Hater

    Feb 14, 2007

    PIMP! Enough said.

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