At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much of a contest between Kassim Osgood and Gary Banks. Osgood is a seven-year veteran with a pair of Pro Bowls under his belt, while Banks has yet to spend a day on the active roster of an NFL team.
However, this battle has as much to do with the reasons not to keep Osgood as it does the reasons to stick with Banks. For one thing, Osgood is a malcontent who has criticized the coaching staff and asked to be traded. The Chargers may not want to risk that kind of negativity infecting the locker room.
Secondly, Osgood is entering the final year of his contract. Keeping him on the roster takes a spot away from a younger receiver, like Banks, who could be developed for the 2010 season. The Chargers will need some receivers at the ready come 2010, as Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Malcom Floyd are all in the final years of their contracts, as well.
Thirdly, the Chargers have set a clear precedent that special-teams contributions are not enough to ensure a roster spot. In 2006, the Chargers released Hanik Milligan just months after he earned a Pro Bowl invite for his special-teams work. Last year, the team cut ties with the fiery Carlos Polk, who was twice named San Diego's Special Teams Player of the Year.
WR Kassim Osgood
All the above does not guarantee Osgood will be released, but it certainly indicates his position is up for grabs. And Banks, after spending his entire rookie season on the practice squad, is eager to take advantage.
Banks, who spent three seasons in the Chicago Cubs' minor league system before returning to play college football at Troy, is a gifted athlete who has yet to realize his full potential. That's not to say he's lacking in the production department, though. As a senior in 2007, he led the Trojans with 61 receptions for 698 yards.
As a senior, Banks matched up in practice against CB Leodis McKelvin, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft.
"I'll tell you what, Leodis is a really great player and definitely is talented enough to deserve to be drafted at the No. 11 spot, and Gary won just as many battles as he lost against Leodis. He trained and played well against a top talent everyday," said Neil Brown, Banks' offensive coordinator at Troy.
Banks now boasts even more experience against premier competition, getting in work against Quentin Jammer, Antonio Cromartie and Antoine Cason over the last 15 months. And he has flashed the ability to make plays against the first-stringers, often creating separation and making difficult catches.
Additionally, Banks' strengths make him well suited to potentially replace Osgood. He is a physical player, a strong blocker and an apt special-teamer.
Is it enough for San Diego to cut ties with one of the most dominant special-teams players in the NFL? If nothing else, it drops another dilemma on Norv Turner's lap.
Will Osgood or Banks win the last WR spot? Talk about it in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.