Deal or no deal? OLB Marques Harris

The Chargers snagged Marques Harris from the ranks of the undrafted in 2005. In the three seasons since, he's tallied 49 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Is that enough to earn the restricted free agent a tender for 2008? takes a closer look.

Marques Harris is a perfect fit in San Diego's 3-4 defense. He has the speed to get after the quarterback and the leverage to hold up against the run. He also boasts the athleticism to make plays in space.

"He's got some of the best athleticism I've ever seen," says Wes Meier, who coached Harris at Southern Utah State. "He's got great strength and great speed."

Harris quickly became a fan favorite in San Diego. His first career sack was a takedown of Eli Manning in a primetime game at Qualcomm Stadium. Harris continued to win over fans with his patented sack celebration, a standing back-flip.

Whether Norv Turner likes Harris as much as the fans do remains to be seen. After Harris injured his hand late last season, Jyles Tucker stepped into his place and dominated, tallying three sacks in Week 16. When Harris came back healthy, Turner chose to keep Tucker in the rotation.

Because the Chargers are stacked at inside linebacker, with five players locked up under long-term contracts, there is only room for four outside ‘backers on the roster. That leaves two spots open behind Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, and special teams ace and clubhouse leader Carlos Polk will claim one of them.

That means Harris will have to take back his spot from Tucker or start looking for employment elsewhere. It's a startling thought, seeing as Harris looked like a long-term keeper just two years ago.

Harris was one of two undrafted free agents to make the team in 2005 -- Derreck Robinson being the other -- and it seemed like both would play their way into prominent roles on the defense. Instead, Robinson was a surprise cut during last year's camp and Harris appears on his way to a similar fate.

"We (used to) laugh about it," said Robinson, referring to how he and Harris rose from obscurity to play prominent roles in 2006.

Now, the laughing has come to an abrupt end. The Chargers will likely give Harris the minimum tender, which is worth $927,000. If another team signs Harris to an offer sheet, San Diego can either match the offer or lose Harris without compensation. However, the tender does not mean Harris is in the team's plans for 2008.

The Chargers are leaning towards keeping Harris so that he can provide depth in case of another Polk injury. But barring such an injury, Harris is a long-shot to see the active roster next season.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.

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