Free Agency Moves Forward, But Are The Chargers?

During the offseason, I usually have to wait for some activity in Chargerdom to prompt me to get in front of the computer. But there seems to be a new story coming out of San Diego every day lately. However, I'm not sure if any of it's good. There's no question that AJ Smith is trying to follow the frugal business plan modeled by the Patriots. The logic is understandable. William Fuller, Marco Coleman, Aaron Taylor, John Jackson, Rod Perry, DeRon Jenkins...

...all of these "big name" free agents were complete wastes of talent.

I know, Marco Coleman and Rod Perry (who abruptly "retired" before the Japan Bowl) went on to contribute in Washington and New Orleans, respectively. But they were busts in San Diego when compared to the salaries they received. Last week, Marcellus Wiley, Stephen Alexander, Vaughn Parker, and Ray Lee Johnson were sent packing. Damion McIntosh is gone and Tim Dwight and Doug Flutie were asked to restructure their contracts, which is "capspeak" for taking a pay cut.

In turn, the Chargers have signed Leander Jordan, Steve Foley, Mike Goff and Randall Godfrey. It remains to be seen if these players are any better than the ones they were signed to replace, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they all don't command huge salaries. No one will accuse AJ Smith of signing any high-paid busts if they don't pan out. But is The Organization simply trying to sign guys because of their bargain basement price tags or because they will complement each other (and the remaining 2003 roster) on the field? In New England, the "second tier" players that Belichick goes after during the offseason are all intended to complement each other within the Patriots' system. But do you really think that Smith or Schottenheimer has such a "system?"

It seems like they are slashing salaries simply for the sake of doing it. Once again, they are simply compounding one mistake with another. Just because you signed the WRONG free agents over the last three years doesn't mean that you shouldn't go after anyone whose price tag might actually match their performance on the field.

Which brings us to David Boston. The Organization has confirmed that they are currently shopping The Enigmatic One. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were reading about Brees, Tomlinson and Boston being the newest group of "triplets" in the NFL? In the beginning of the season, Boston clashed with Schottenheimer and was suspended for the first Oakland game, but can you really blame him? Who wouldn't clash with Marty? He's an idiot, who's long past his prime. Boston's flaky personality is one thing, but you can't blame his streaky play solely on him. We clearly didn't have quarterbacks who could consistently feed him the ball. So what is the Chargers' solution? Wait until Boston begins to acclimate himself and then trade him. There's talk that the Bolts will end up with a fifth-round draft pick, a la Junior Seau. Apparently, Miami is Boston's biggest suitor as well. Gee, I wonder if this move will come back to bite us in the ass? I don't care how much cap room the team would create by unloading Boston now. What's the point of having a lot of cap room if you are going to sign some talent to go with it?

AJ Smith talks a big game. He recently admitted "We won four games last season. I haven't won shit." I couldn't agree with him more. But he also recently admitted that he gave Schottenheimer a "free pass" after last season. Why? Was it also because of how much money The Organization would lose letting him go? If the Chargers suck this season, which they certainly look like they will, would Smith also get a "free pass" for next season? If this is really his "make or break" year, does he really want his job resting on the shoulders of Marty Schottenheimer, the 2004 edition?

Look at Marcellus Wiley's comments during his press conference in Dallas:
"It's a real demanding environment here, but I like that. They're going to tell me straight. If I'm struggling with three sacks and you're thinking about cutting me at the end of the year, they're not going to bite their tongue.

"They're not going to tell me that I'm playing the run well and taking on double teams and carrying out my assignments. They're going to tell me in Week 3 that I stink, that I need to step up. I appreciate that. I respond to that."

So once again, Schottenheimer's bungling comes back to haunt us. Parcells screams and yells, but at least it's meant to motivate. Marty and A.J. just danced around Wiley's anemic season. Sure, Wiley talked about needing to improve during interviews, but that guy says all sorts of shit during interviews. The Chargers clearly didn't light a fire under him. I know that Wiley was recovering from an injury, but you can already tell that Wiley is going to be huge in Dallas. It's no surprise that he mentioned Rodney Harrison as his role model.

Who knows, maybe Smith won't get the ax if the Bolts flop this season. The Spanos clan doesn't seem to have very high standards. They've turned the Chargers into a joke. Do they really want to run them into the ground and move to Los Angeles? If so, then do it already. Don't slowly torture what's left of your fan base. Don't think that it can't get worse than last season—it can. I read somewhere that Brees and Boston didn't have a good relationship and that played in to the decision to trade him. So Drew Brees isn't good enough to start (I agree with that), but his experiences with Boston are somehow relevant? Even Wiley mentioned that his public support of Flutie over Brees led to his departure. "But I want to thank Drew for putting me in Dallas," Wiley said. "I'm about to go get me a (Super Bowl) ring. I'm trying to follow the Rodney mold."

That hurts. Again, I think Drew Brees is a great kid, but he regressed last season and his feelings certainly shouldn't factor into the Chargers' decision making. But that's what's so frustrating. There's no logic to anything that The Organization does anymore.

Next up is April's draft. Now that the Bolts have rid themselves of what little talent they had, will they go ahead and select a quarterback? If so, will it be one of the "blue chip" prospects. How do you think LaDainian Tomlinson feels right now? I'm sure he's looking at the remaining roster and thinking "Get me out of here right now." He's just too classy to say it. Maybe he should start his own team, the Los Angeles Tomlinsons. I'll be their first fan.

Seriously, once the Chargers get basically nothing in return for Boston, who's going to catch the ball? If the Chargers draft Manning, Roethlisberger, Rivers or some guy we've never heard of, he's basically going to be throwing the ball to himself. When I turned 33 on March 8th, one of my friends bought me an Oakland Raiders helmet piñata. As I was pounding the crap out of it, I realized that hating Oakland is all we have right now. I absolutely have no confidence in The Organization. The Spanoses begat A.J. Smith, who in turn, begat Marty Schottenheimer. Until that unholy progression is reversed, it seems unlikely that things are going to get better. It really hurts, but admitting it doesn't make you less of a fan. Look at Marcellus Wiley's comments. If there's problem, you need to solve it. Actually, Vanilla Ice said the same thing. But the Chargers are yet to face their sad state head on. As The Grateful Dead sang in Black Throated Wind:

"All full of the blues and tryin' to lose,
You ain't gonna learn what you don't wanna know."



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