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Old 05-23-2010, 06:54 PM   #1
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Default Interesting Story about Chargers RFA's

I actually learned a little about the RFA process, "tendering," and the possible 110% rule. It would be awesome if the Chergers lost a couple of these guys.

Deadline looms for Chargers' four RFAs
BY KEVIN ACEE, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2010 AT 12:05 A.M.

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.”

Kevin Acee: (619) 293-1857; kevin.acee@uniontrib.com
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Old 05-23-2010, 07:07 PM   #2
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There's a lot of pressure on San Diego this year, and every year.
They can't afford to keep coming up short every year.
Having disgruntled players can mess with their team unity and chemistry...
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Old 05-23-2010, 08:06 PM   #3
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There is one really really insteresting twist in this whole RFA mess. All of the Chargers RFA players have 4 seasons accrued already, meaning that if a new CBA is put in effect before the season after the 2010 season starts and that CBA has the same 4 year requirement to reach UFA status all players would qualify for UFA status regardless if they get credit for the 2010 season or not.

It is accepted that no season beyond 2010 will be played absent a new CBA and there seems to be no push by any sides to increase the number of years needed to reach UFA, meaning that 4 years should be enough or more than enough to reach UFA when the new CBA is signed into effect.

If any of the Chargers players really want to stick it to AJ Smith they could hold out all year knowing that they will qualify for UFA under the next CBA and that there will be a work stoppage until that CBA is signed. I honestly think that is a better option than playing for 6 weeks risking injury and risking looking out of place due to having missed the offseason practice and weekly practices for most of the season.
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Old 05-23-2010, 08:26 PM   #4
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They're not going to sit out. They'll be back before the June deadline.
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Old 05-23-2010, 09:39 PM   #5
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They're not going to sit out. They'll be back before the June deadline.
I hope you're wrong. I want to see a **** storm.
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Old 05-24-2010, 02:11 AM   #6
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Very few players have the balls to actually back up the threat to sit out. How many can you name who actually did?

As Pat Kirwan always says, "It's protest season". No way they're sitting out. And aside from Merriman, there's no way the other three don't sign their tender because they're going to lose a lot of money if they don't.
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Old 05-24-2010, 02:43 AM   #7
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McSmith is tearing the Chargers apart!!

Seriously though, expect them all to sign their tenders before the deadline. As boltaneer said, its just too much money to forfeit if they sit out, both in the short term and likely the long term.

Jackson has been getting better with every passing year, if he keeps that trend going in 2010 he will be in line for a Marshall-esque mega-deal.

Floyd really established himself as the #2 receiver for them last season, but he was far from being "sensational". He is very well suited to their offense though and his numbers should improve plenty if he plays a full 2010 season, and a nice contract should be the result.

Merriman needs a good year as well. He was a shadow of his former self last year, nobody in their right mind will give him the kind of money he would have gotten a few years ago. If he is fully healthy again he should be able to get double digit sacks, and then he would be someone worth paying.

McNeill I think they should pay to be honest.
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Old 05-24-2010, 02:45 AM   #8
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The three sans Merriman will 100% sign their tenders.

Merriman is a special case with higher salary and much higher opinion of himself. But with his mediocre showing last year I don't think he has much option other than to sign as well.

McNeil and Floyd are most likely to be signed to a long term deal due to their clean records off the field.

The team needs Jackson the most but that usually isn't the criteria AJ uses to prioritize how to resolve such matters.
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Old 05-24-2010, 03:25 AM   #9
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The Chargers have had their ass saved by this whole CBA deal. There is no way in hell they could have signed Sproles, Merriman, VJ, Floyd, and McNeal this year. There is always next year though and they will lose them sooner or later, and next year they will have more FA's to sign one of them being Antonio Gates.
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Old 05-24-2010, 03:36 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by BMarsh615 View Post
The Chargers have had their ass saved by this whole CBA deal. There is no way in hell they could have signed Sproles, Merriman, VJ, Floyd, and McNeal this year. There is always next year though and they will lose them sooner or later, and next year they will have more FA's to sign one of them being Antonio Gates.
To be fair, having Marshall, Dumervil, Orton and Kuper as UFA going into this offseason would have been kinda **** for us too.
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Old 05-24-2010, 04:58 AM   #11
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To be fair, having Marshall, Dumervil, Orton and Kuper as UFA going into this offseason would have been kinda **** for us too.
Dumervil seems like he wants to stay in Denver so he probably would have been signed before FA started. Kuper probably would have been taken care of as well.

Marshall probably would have been tagged and then traded.

I have no clue what would have happened with Orton.
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Old 05-24-2010, 05:23 AM   #12
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All true, but by the same token you can bet that the Chargers would have gone about things in a completely different way if those 4 guys had all been scheduled to be UFA.

My guess is that Merriman would have walked, McNeill and Floyd would both have gotten long term deals and Jackson would have been either signed long term or hit with the franchise tag (and Sproles would have walked).
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Old 05-24-2010, 08:47 AM   #13
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Vincent Jackson will almost certainly miss the first four games of the 2010 season with a DUI-related suspension.
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Old 05-24-2010, 09:02 AM   #14
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A.J. Smith is committed to his goal this (and any) year:
To make sure everyone knows how awesome is A.J. Smith.
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Old 05-24-2010, 11:33 PM   #15
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Assuming there is a CBA and football in 2011, Sproles will test the market and find someone to overpay him. This is why the Chargers franchised him this year. They couldn't take that chance before drafting Mathews but next year they can move on.

Depending if he returns to his old form or not, Merriman will be tagged or he'll walk (and probably won't ever see a big contract).

Regardless of his DUIs, I think Jackson (along with McNeill) will get their long term contracts.

With Floyd, I think there are too many factors. I can see him getting a new contract here but I can't see him getting a gigantic one so he may very well decline and test the market. If Merriman doesn't get tagged, perhaps Jackson gets tagged (more time to determine if he can clean up his act) and Floyd gets paid.

Having said all that, this is a contract year for all of them so they should be bringing it every week.
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