Drayton Florence is the most aggressive cornerback on the team. Unlike the Chargers' other corners who play not to make mistakes, Florence is unafraid to take chances and becomes a receiver once the ball is in the air. Were it not for his hands uncharacteristically failing him last season, he would have finished with double-digit interceptions and a Pro Bowl invite.
Additionally, Florence is a physical run defender. With him and Quentin Jammer on the field, it is almost impossible for opposing running backs to bounce their runs outside the hashes. Florence has the unflappable confidence that all great cornerbacks need, and is the member of the secondary most likely to get the defense off the field with a big play.
Let Florence walk.
Football is a business and extending Florence is a bad business decision, especially given the huge money starting cornerbacks are earning on the open market. Also, allowing him to leave would create opportunities for Antonio Cromartie and Paul Oliver, both of whom are highly touted cover men.
Florence can be a defensive liability. He often guesses when anticipating throws and gives up too many big plays as a result. Also, his temper gets him in trouble, as evidenced by the taunting foul he picked up in the playoff loss to the New England Patriots.
What should happen?
A.J. Smith should pony up and give Florence the money he deserves. In today's pass-happy NFL, it is important to have at least four good cornerbacks. There are three cornerbacks on the field for approximately 65 percent of the defensive snaps, so the fourth corner is just a sprained ankle away from assuming that responsibility. If Florence leaves, that more than negates the depth acquired with the Oliver addition.
What will happen?
Florence will put up big numbers in his contract year and parlay that production in a sizable contract, just not with the Chargers. Smith will not get into a bidding war for Florence with hefty contracts of Jammer and Cromartie already on his books. Instead, he will thank Florence for his contributions, send him off into free agency, and wait for his compensatory pick in the 2009 draft.