The Other Side

We have a new fullback in our midst. Lorenzo Neal joins the Chargers a day after letting Fred McCrary go. The difference is a more expensive contract that could limit our future options. This year was touted as the year of the fullback. There have never been so many good fullbacks to dot free agency…ever! I should be happy the LaDainian Tomlinson show will continue. I wish the price were not as steep.

Fred McCrary was to make $725K this year in the final year of his deal. Lorenzo Neal conversely will rake in $4.5 million over the next three years. $1.5 million will come in the form of a bonus. He will make $1.8 over the first two years.

Neal who went to the Pro Bowl last season was a step below the elite among fullbacks. If you spend the money get the best. On January 4th I reviewed the top fullbacks available here:

Fullbacks on the Market

I erred when I stated Neal would not get over $1 million in free agency. What I failed to realize was the Chargers would be the bidders. With a history of overpaying, they have done it again. I am not saying Neal is not good, he is. He made Adrian Murrell a 1,000-yard rusher. That is a feat, maybe a minor miracle…that was also many moons ago (1997). Corey Dillon has always been a great runner, with and without Neal, same with pre-injury Eddie George.

So what is the problem?

The problem is it is money unwisely spent. Ok so we do not have to Draft a fullback, but where is the getting younger that General Manager John Butler spouted just a day before the signing?

Let me retort, "It remains to be seen who we can get. In all honesty they probably will be younger. Several young men who have left had ten years in the league. That is a long time in the league. A lot of people never get that long."

Ten years in the league. Sound familiar? Funny you should ask. Lorenzo Neal is a ten-year veteran. Ten years, to paraphrase Butler, that is a lot of pounding for a fullback to take. It is his job to take the pounding for the running back and free up lanes.

Marty Schottenheimer added, "The ability to find the young players, like Jason Ball is an example, in free agency as well as in Draft choices your continuing to lay one building block upon the other. When you're a true coach as I consider myself to be, it's fun to be involved with young guys working to get them better day by day by day."

Does this mean he will not have fun with Neal? The real telling portion is where he said "young players…in free agency…". Now correct me if I am wrong but Neal is not so young when it comes to a football career. A three-year deal for a 32year old fullback? I have serious issues with this, can you tell?

Of course if David Boston comes to San Diego, I will consider this water under the bridge and grin and bear it.

The future cap implications of deals that continue to cause dead money could bite us. Six year deals that turn into two year deals are not a plus. Now, a three year deal and plenty of dough for a fullback. We could have had McCrary for one more year and while he may not be great he certainly was serviceable in helping LT gain over 1,600 yards last year. Then we could have addressed the spot with a Draft pick and $350K for next year. Talk about helping yourself for the future. Maybe there will only be nine rookies to make the Chargers opening day roster.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net or via the following link: Denis Savage

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