But in the end, Dielman took quite a bit less – left as much a $10 million on the table – to return to his beloved Chargers. The contract he signed, for six years, $39 million and $17 million guaranteed in the first two years, wasn’t quite in the same ballpark as the seven-year, $49 million Hutchinson Specials signed by former Redskins guard Derrick Dockery (Buffalo) and ex-Bengals guard Eric Steinbach (Cleveland, who actually signed Steinbach to a $49.5 million contract to play right tackle).
To Dielman, it didn’t matter. Seattle’s sales pitch, which included a private jet, dinner with Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, and many other prospective teammates, and a tour of Qwest Field, only made the 26-year old guard more aware that home was really all the way down the coast. "This morning my agent called me with some good news," said Dielman in an Associated Press story, about the fact that the Seahawks were about to make him as rich as Dockery and Steinbach. "I told him, 'Get me out of here, man. Get me home, back to sunny San Diego."'
Dielman flew back to San Diego in a coach seat, somewhat appropriate for an undrafted free agent who played tight end and defensive tackle at Indiana, becoming a starting guard for the Chargers in 2005. He could not forget the chance that the Chargers gave him, and the friends among teammates he has made in San Diego. Those friends had been calling him lately, trying that last hard sell that finally worked. “The Enforcer” was coming home.
"San Diego gave me my chance," Dielman said. "They gave me every opportunity to stay here when I was coming up through the ranks. I gave them every opportunity and they stepped up. Money's nice, but if you're not happy, if you're miserable, it ain't really worth it, in my opinion. I'm happy. San Diego's happy. Money ain't a factor. It never really was, either," he said.
For mercurial Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, it was a joyous signing, as he was able to welcome one of his favorite players back into the fold. Playing next to rookie left tackle Marcus McNeill, Dielman was the primary mover in the NFL’s best offensive line through the 2006 season.
"Obviously, he's making a statement that it's not all about money, as long as he's comfortable with it," said Smith. "I knew he was that kind of guy, but you don't know the results until it's done."
"I thought he was gone," Chargers center Nick Hardwick said. "I didn't think we were going to get him back. He called me and said, 'Are you ready to make a run at the Super Bowl?' He was pretty excited."
For a disappointed Seahawks front office, there is only the knowledge that everything possible was done to shore up the depleted offensive line. After waving goodbye to Dielman in what had to be a very surprising turn of events, that must have been small consolation.
Seattle will now woo veteran guard Cooper Carlisle, who started all 32 regular-season games and all postseason games for the Denver Broncos in 2005 and 2006 after starting only six games in the previous five years. Selected in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Florida, Carlisle would provide a decent option as a former trusted member of one of the NFL’s best lines. It’s not quite the same sexy signing (if the acquisition of a guard can ever be called “sexy”) as Dielman’s would have been, but the Seahawks must move on without overpaying the likes of former Arizona guard/tackle Leonard Davis, as the Cowboys or Redskins appear to be thinking of doing.
It’s time for Seattle to refocus, shop from the second tier, and hope for the best.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and a contributor to FoxSports.com. Feel free to contact him here.