Chargers pursuing another linebacker?

Now that the San Diego Chargers have made the conversion to the 3-4 defense, the team has 13 linebackers on the squad. Only four get to see the field at one time, but there is talk of stockpiling yet another linebackers from a group of June 1st cuts. Not counting the undrafted free agents, the team has nine linebackers. If the plan is to keep one backup for each spot, plus an extra for special teams, it would leave exactly nine. Two starters were signed this offseason. Will they make it three?

What would they do with the extra linebacker?

Could the pursuance of a linebacker be a precursor to a deal to send a current member of the squad away?

"The Chargers are looking at Jason Gildon," said a source close to Gildon. "They are also looking at Jeremiah Trotter."

Jeremiah Trotter?

"Yes. I don't know to what extent they have taken the talks, but there is definite interest coming from San Diego."

Gildon played the strong side in Pittsburgh's 3-4 and recorded six sacks a year ago. For his career he has 77 sacks but at age 31, 32 in July, what does he offer?

He is a veteran of the 3-4 defense and if the Chargers plan to deploy this strategy for the foreseeable future, Gildon could be a valuable teacher. There is no doubt he has lost a step, but his play on the strong side could provide a presence for everyone to learn from.

Trotter played in the 4-3 in Washington but would also likely be moved to the strong side. He has the ability to blow up the run from that side and has come along nicely in pass coverage, a previous weak spot.

Trotter is a different type of player than Gildon and better versus the run. He does have the ability to rush the passer, but that has never been his calling in the 4-3.

There is a trend here with all this strongside talk and it has to do with the deal.

What about this deal?

Commodities that have some merit include Zeke Moreno, Carlos Polk and strongside starter Ben Leber.

Carlos Polk rarely has found the field on defense and that makes him more than expendable. While he is a special teams demon, having so many linebackers on the team will force a few more onto the coverage units and could enhance that aspect of the game. It is one that is taken for granted and the speedy Stephen Cooper has adapted well to that role. Also, Polk did not lead the unit in tackles last year. The team can no longer wait for him to prove he can start.

Zeke Moreno was the starter a year ago and proved to be a step slow in diagnosing plays, reacting and making the tackle. He has some ability and if put into a good position he could make plays as he proved when he was just a reserve. His sideline-to-sideline speed is lacking and he has not shown a consistent ability to navigate through traffic to make the tough tackles. There is likely to be a suitor or two for his services as he is still young and did start in 2003.

Ben Leber has been a starter the past two years, since he was a rookie, and did not make a significant jump forward in year two. Last year, he played in a position that did not seem to suit his style. He was forced into coverage more, where he still needs a lot of work, and was not as noticeable at the point of attack. He would get caught up in the line and his pursuit to the edge was not leaving him in good position to knife through gaps.

Wade Phillips may have his own designs on using Leber in a better way. Leber performs well when the defense is attacking and not reacting as they did much of last year. His instincts are good and the Chargers need to take advantage of that. Getting rid of him would be a move to acquire a talented player in return. This would be a deal contingent upon signing another player to take his place as the current roster does not hold an ideal fit for the strong side.

Leber is cheap and has upside. Isn't it a little strange that the Chargers are looking at linebacker when they have nine capable and 13 on the roster and speaking trade in the same sentence?

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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