Does Sanders Open Door for Davis?

The Chargers added one of the most injury-prone defenders in the league by signing Bob Sanders on Thursday. This begs the question: If the team will give Sanders a chance after three injury-plagued years, why not do the same for Buster Davis?

It has long been assumed the Chargers will release Buster Davis after he finished another year on injured-reserve. A first-round pick in 2007, he has played in just 12 games over the last three seasons (three more games than Sanders has played in that same time frame).

After spending most of 2009 as a healthy scratch, Davis was thrust back into the rotation last year when injuries decimated San Diego's receiving corps. He fought through a painful rib injury to average three catches per game over the first seven contests before succumbing to a season-ending groin injury.

It was the second time in three years a groin injury sent Davis to injured-reserve.

It would be foolish to depend on Davis going forward, but the same could be said of Sanders. The Chargers deemed Sanders' signing a low-risk, high-reward deal after inking him to a one-year contract. The same description applies to Davis, who enters the final year of his rookie contract with a salary of $840,000.

WR Buster Davis
Shana Siler/
To be fair, Davis does not offer the same upside as Sanders. The latter is a former defensive player of the year; the former has never caught more than 21 passes in a single season.

But the risk is also lower with Davis, who would be asked to be a situational player rather than an every-down contributor. The Chargers will likely need receiver depth, too, as Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Kelley Washington all figure to hit to open market. The Chargers neglected to tender Naanee in the event he becomes a restricted free agent, signaling he is no longer in the team's plans.

If Floyd re-signs and Vincent Jackson accepts his franchise tender, San Diego's depth chart could feature Jackson, Floyd, Patrick Crayton, Davis and Seyi Ajirotutu. That's a dynamic combination of experience and upside.

In that scenario, a healthy Davis still has a small place in the rotation and can step in if one of the top-three goes down. He can also help out as a punt returner, which may be key with Darren Sproles ready to leave as a free agent. Antoine Cason and Crayton can also return punts, but Norv Turner would prefer not to expose them to the extra hits.

If Davis is hurt, on offense or special teams, there is still plenty of talent to keep the machine running on all cylinders.

So, why keep a player when there is no dispute the team can survive without him? The same reason the Chargers added Bob Sanders: the reward warrants the risk.

Should the Chargers give Davis another chance? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His work has been published by NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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