Free Agent Forecast: Safety Chris Crocker

There are a lot of things that A.J. Smith does well, but evaluating safeties isn't one of them. He has signed three free-agent safeties in the last five years -- Kwame Lassiter, Bhawoh Jue and Marlon McCree -- and all of them have been busts. Find out why Chris Crocker could get Smith off the schneid.

The Atlanta Falcons acquired safety Chris Crocker in a trade with the Cleveland Browns two seasons ago. He went on to start 30 of 32 games for the Falcons, piling up 105 tackles, 18 pass breakups, four interceptions and two sacks during that time.

The Falcons used Crocker exclusively at free safety, although the Chargers would like him to back up both Clinton Hart and Eric Weddle. Such a switch would suit Crocker well, as he is more comfortable at strong safety.

Crocker would be a classic A.J. Smith signing. He is young (27), affordable and capable of breaking out if coached up properly. It is all part of Smith's buy-low philosophy that caused him to sign OT Leander Jordan in 2004 and FS Bhawoh Jue in 2005.

Of course, Jue lasted only two seasons in San Diego, making him one of Smith's many whiffs at the safety position.

His first safety disappointment was Kwamie Lassiter. Smith signed Lassiter to a three-year deal in 2003 and Lassiter lasted only one season in San Diego.

After Lassiter and Jue came free agent let-down Marlon McCree. San Diego signed McCree to a five-year deal in 2006 with $16 million guaranteed. McCree contributed two up-and-down seasons in San Diego and is expected to be released shortly.

The Chargers can only hope that Crocker would bring better results than his predecessors. There is certainly a need in San Diego, as there will be only two true safeties on the roster once McCree is released (Hart and Weddle).

Crocker has a chance to make it three...and to end Smith's 0-for-3 streak at the position.

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for She has contributed to the official Web sites of Lorenzo Neal, Shaun Phillips, Shawne Merriman and others for Sixthman Communications.

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