Dr. J's Mailbox for 2/17/03

This week saw the return of Oakland Raiders fans to the San Diego scene along with assorted questions regarding the current state of the Chargers. I also would like to thank Tom Criswell for taking the time to answer one of the questions I was asked. Now on to the fans who make this column so worthwhile:

Jeez, you ask a simple question like, "Where did all the Raider fans go?" and here they come like ants to a picnic….

And now, on to the letters!

I have not heard anything about the future of Raylee Johnson. He is due to make $3M this year and it seems to me that is a lot of money for such an inconsistent and, at least last year, unproductive guy. I would expect that he is a cap casualty and that we can find a cheaper replacement for him among the FA group. What do you think?

Tom in Spokane

Cutting Johnson is certainly a possibility since Adrian Dingle and Leonardo Carson are both unrestricted free agents and resigning both of them should be high on the Chargers' list of priorities. Dingle has filled in nicely for both Johnson and Marcellus Wiley when each was hurt and could command some money from another team trying to rebuild their defensive lines a little more cheaply. But I would imagine that because of the lack of depth along the line, I would say that cutting Johnson will not be an option for the Chargers. The entire line had a disappointing season last year, but hopefully with an injury free season from Jamal Williams and a possible draft pick of William Joseph, DeWayne Robertson, Jonathan Sullivan as a DT, both Johnson and Wiley can rebound to have good seasons.

The Niners got rid of Steve Mariucci and replaced him with Dennis Erickson? What were they thinking? This guy never did anything in Seattle and now the Niners think that this is the guy that will get them over the hump? This move makes no sense to me at all.

Jim in San Francisco

I was very critical of the 49ers when they fired Steve Mariucci and now I'm just baffled by the pick. To his credit, Dennis Erickson did inherit Tom Flores' mess in Seattle and was fairly successful in rebuilding them even though he never got them into the playoffs. Erickson was about as good as the 49ers were going to get at this point.

But what disturbs me more about this is that the 49ers are becoming more like the Dallas Cowboys have been since Jimmy Johnson left them. Just as Jerry Jones seems to be working a little too much behind the scenes, the shadow of Bill Walsh looms over this franchise. I thought that Dennis Green would have been a perfect fit with the 49ers. He's a Walsh disciple with San Francisco ties. But I have a feeling that the Niner front office didn't want a coach who wanted more input into personnel decisions, they wanted someone who would bend to the will of the front office. If that's the case, problems loom over this franchise for years to come.

So what do you mean by "Where did all the Raider fans go?" Is it a taunt? Are you asking for mail from Raider fans? Or is it an honest question?

If it's the 1st, well, the Bucs whooped us. The time for bragging will come after the 1st game of next season. Were there a lot of happy Charger fans after they got killed by the 9ers in the Super Bowl? If there were, great, but the standard is higher for us Raider fans. If it's the last, for 1 thing, it's NBA season. We have the best fans on the West Coast here in Sacramento. The Clippers, on the upper hand, left San Diego to play in the shadow of the Lakers. Since they are the Clippers, good for you.

This is a critical time for the Raiders & it's in the hands of that master of cap magic, Bruce Allen. It will take place, as usual, with as much secrecy as possible because that's the way Big Al likes it. The outcome will probably both delight & infuriate Raider fans as it has in years past, and result in a team that that will win a 4th straight AFC West championship.

Leong in Sacramento

Well, I'm not sure where you were going with this letter, but I'll do my best with this. First off, it was nothing more than a question. I got tons of Raider fans writing me after I made the Buccaneers as my Super Bowl Prediction and soon after the game, the fans stopped writing.

I agree that the Kings fans are among the best in the NBA, but I still don't think they have the inside presence to hang with the Lakers. Sure the Lakers aren't in the playoffs yet, but you know they will be eventually. Besides, the most dangerous team in the NBA right now is the San Antonio Spurs.

The Jets made huge strides this season while rebuilding, but they were still an 9-7 team. The Ravens and Jags both struggled for credibility. None of those teams I mentioned were as far over the cap as the Raiders are this season. I don't doubt the cap mastery that Bruce Allen has, but there's no way around it. The Raiders will have to jettison some very big contracts with some key people while having to plug those holes in with younger/less expensive and probably less talented players.

Do you think that Drew Brees is the right man for the job? I mean, he doesn't exactly have a cannon arm or blazing speed. What do you think of the Chargers looking at someone like Byron Leftwich in the 1st round this season?

Jose in San Diego

It's not going to happen. For one, Leftwich won't be there at the 15th pick. He's far too talented to fall that far. Secondly, Brees needs to be given a chance to run this team. I understand some of your thoughts, but it was Brees' first year as the starter! He's never going to throw the ball 70 yards in the air like John Elway and he's not going to outrun the secondary like Michael Vick. But he's smart, he makes good decisions in the pocket, and needs a few more starts under his belt and more talent in his receiving corps before we can make an assessment on his worth. Frankly, I think physical talents are overrated at the QB position. You can either play this game or you can't. Give me a smart QB over a guy who thinks he can outrun everyone or thread the needle between quadruple coverage because he's got a thunderbolt for an arm. Why do you think cannon arms like Ryan Leaf and Jeff George aren't stars in this league? Yup, it's because of their 5 cent heads.

What will the realized cap savings be with the restructuring of Flutie and with Fletcher, Conway and Harrison being released. I know Flutie's base dropped from $4.5 to $655k, does that mean the Chargers realize all of the base salary savings.

Bob in San Diego

For this question, I send it off to my NFL Salary Cap expert, Tom Criswell….

Flutie restructuring saved the Chargers roughly 3 million towards the Cap but not all will be allocated this years cap, it depends on how the restructuring is, Flutie gets $655K in salary but he also gets to bonuses, one which holds against the cap this season, and one that goes against the cap next season plus whatever Bonuses that he earned last year that went against the cap this year. All in all he will save the team roughly (not exactly) 3 million towards the cap this year. He will make an estimated $1.5 million if he is on the roster opening day.

If the Chargers release Harrison, Fletcher and Conway, The 3 together could save the Chargers another 6 or 7 million under the cap (most likely lower I did not count bonuses or incentives earned).

All total about 8 to 10 million could be saved if the 3 were cut and with Flutie's restructure (minus all bonuses and incentives closer to 5 or 6 million).

Now that we've had a couple of seasons to look at it, who do you think got the better of the deal in 2000? Atlanta or San Diego?

Tom in Santee

Michael Vick is perhaps the greatest athlete to ever play quarterback in this league. He's faster than many receivers and defensive backs playing and he can throw the ball a mile. With that being said, I still think the Chargers will come out ahead simply because they were able to get LaDanian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Tay Cody, Reche Caldwell, and Tim Dwight as a result of that trade. And yes, I am aware that the Brees selection in the second round was the Chargers' own pick and not a result of the trade, but you understand what I mean.

While it's still a bit early and as great as Vick and Tomlinson have been, I think once Brees gets more talent around him, this deal will be even more on the Chargers' side. I'm a big believer that many good players will trump one great player every time.

The Raider Fans are still here, making plans to invade your town filled of hate-filled bigots so we can watch the Raiders kick the Chargers butts AGAIN in our home away from home, South Oakland, CA.

Keep the faith, one of these days they'll play the Super Bowl in October, then I'm sure the Chargers would have a chance.

BTW, thanks for thinking about us so much, we love the attention. Sorry we don't give Charger Fans as much attention as we get from you guys, but we have a football team that we like to focus on instead.

Bill McKinley

Thanks for the letter Bill. It's just a shame that most of the focus is on the Raiders is on their severe salary cap problems that they are having after going for a championship over the last three years and on the myopic, uninformed, shortsighted, arrogant, inarticulate, simpleton members of the self-proclaimed Raider Nation instead of the fans like yourself…

Also check out Recent Envelopes in the Mailbox:

Mailbox for the week of February 10th

Mailbox for the week of February 3rd

Thanks to all writing in, please feel free to drop me a line regarding any matter, and your comments could be the next ones published. Please make sure to leave your name and city of residence so we can accurately credit your questions.

Dr. J answers readers' questions in his weekly column exclusively at Chargers Update. He can be reached at charmeljun@hotmail.com and welcome letters of any kind. Dr. J can also be reached via the following link: Dr. J's Mailbox

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