If I Were a Carpenter ...

The best way to win in the NFL is to stay one step ahead of the competition. When everyone else is doing one thing, it is always best to do something different. By doing the opposite of everyone else, you get the best of an untapped resource. The trick in the NFL is finding a resource yet untapped.

Free agency is the obvious route for acquiring new talent, so you can rule that one out. The Redskins announced the restricted free agent market was reopen for business two years ago, and they are certainly no better off for it. So, it seems the last place to look, and where the Chargers should look first, is the trade market.

This may not seem like a new idea, but it can be if done properly. While dozens of teams are formulating trade proposals for players on the block such as Patrick Surtain, Travis Henry and Rod Gardner, the Chargers should target players not being actively shopped around the league. Remember, the NFL is a business, so whether teams say it or not, everyone is moveable.

When the Chargers look around the league for quality players who might be moved on the cheap, a glaring oddity should become obvious to them: there are currently six defensive ends, all of whom were selected in the first round of the draft within the last three years, who are not even starting for their respective ball clubs. Some may label these players as busts and forget about them. However, these are players who are still young and talented, and who could resurrect their careers with the Chargers.

This list of neglected defensive ends includes Cardinals Wendell Bryant and Calvin Pace, the Bears' Michael Haynes, the Eagles' Jerome McDougle, the Jets' Bryan Thomas and the Saints' Will Smith. While Smith was drafted just last season and so is unlikely to be moved, all of the other players could be obtained for little more than a second round pick.

The Chargers could find all the help they need for their defensive line right here. If they are looking for a defensive end who has the size to stuff the run, as well as the speed to rush the passer from the edge, then they could go after either Bryant or Haynes. If they are looking for an end who can provide 20 or so snaps per game as a pure pass rusher, then they can choose between McDougle and Thomas. Finally, if they want someone who can rush from both the defensive end position and the outside linebacker slot, then Pace may be their man.

To assume that these players are merely busts who would do no better with the Chargers is presumptuous. In fact, there is an explanation as to why each of them has underachieved. Bryant, Pace and Haynes have all gone through coaching changes, and so their new coaches are no longer using the schemes that these players were drafted to play in. As for McDougle and Thomas, they were both drafted onto teams that currently have an already established pass rushing threat. All these two can do is fight for leftovers from Jevon Kearse and Shaun Ellis, respectively.

The downside is minimal when trading for such a player. While they are playing under first-round caliber contracts, their signing bonuses have long been paid. The Chargers would lose a draft pick in the deal, but they would be getting a young player in return, so it is not as if they would be mortgaging the future. Plus, after trading for a defensive end, the team would be free to concentrate on wide receiver and offensive line with their two first round picks.

If the Chargers want to successfully manipulate the NFL's talent market, they need to take advantage of what is there. This is clearly an untapped surplus in an area of need for the team. It is vital that they recognize this, and take immediate advantage of it.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@sandiegosports.net

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