One man’s problem can be another man’s solution.
In the NFL, two teams separated by one state and a thousand miles find themselves in the same situation.
In Seattle, the Seahawks are prepared to start the season without cornerstone strong safety Kam Chancellor. Chancellor (6’3″, 232 lbs) is holding out for a new contract even though his existing deal has three years remaining. In 2013, he signed a four-year extension worth $28 million.
Entering his sixth season out of Virginia Tech, the 27-year-old All-Pro is a key cog in Seattle’s fabled ‘Legion of Boom’ secondary. He is equally adept against the run and pass, assuming the role of an extra linebacker in run situations.
The Seahawks just made Chancellor’s running mate, free safety Earl Thomas, the highest-paid safety in the league in 2014. The Seahawks front office had hoped their vaunted secondary was set in stone after agreeing with Richard Sherman during the 2014 offseason, as well. To give in to Chancellor’s demands would set a bad precedent and open themselves to the same situation occurring with other players down the road. Ironically, Chancellor is the highest paid strong safety in the league at $4.55 million.
Seattle is hedging their bet by adding another safety to the team. Last week they sent a fifth-round draft pick to Kansas City for Kelsie McCray.
Meanwhile in San Diego…
An All-Pro safety has thrown his hands in the air and is prepared to test the free-agent market once the season ends. Eric Weddle made news this offseason when he spoke out against the San Diego front office. Weddle feels “highly disrespected” at the fact that the team has not offered him a long-term extension. He is due to make $7.5 million in base salary this season.
The 30-year-old Weddle has bristled at not being contacted by the front office at all regarding his future during the offseason. He has stated he would love to retire a Charger and have that security for himself and his family. Weddle set a training-camp deadline to have an extension completed. Nothing happened. As a result, he has stated this is his last season in San Diego and looks forward to playing the season through and testing free agency at season’s end.
Drafted by San Diego in 2007, Weddle has established himself as one of the top-five safeties in the league. He is the only safety in the NFL to be named to the All-Pro first- or second-team five consecutive seasons. A team leader, the three-time Pro Bowler is annually selected as a team captain. He will again wear the captain ‘C’ on his jersey this season.
The same, but different.
One team is not talking to the player. One player is not talking to the team. One player is threatening to sit out the season, the other will play and leave when the year is over. By front office logic, one player is on the right side of 30 and the other isn’t. One already has an extension, the other doesn’t. The player with the money wants more years. The player with more years wants more money.
Could a swap of teams solve the headaches of all involved?
Rarely does it occur that two players at the top of their game swap teams in what would amount to an even trade. Both players are at the top of their class for their position. The free safety/strong safety designations are irrelevant aside from figuring like position players and salaries. Weddle can and has played significant snaps at strong safety throughout his career. Last season he played 350 snaps at strong safety. Both players play multiple positions all over the field. The portraits of toughness and durability, Chancellor has only missed three games in his playing career while Weddle has only missed four.
In Seattle, Weddle would be the one player they could obtain that could make their secondary even more dangerous. The Seahawks could give Weddle a three- or four-year deal and not compromise their stance on redoing contracts with more than a year remaining.
In San Diego, GM Tom Telesco would get what he covets. He gets a young, versatile impact player who is already an All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection. Telesco should feel comfortable giving Chancellor a four-year deal to solidify his secondary.
Teams have been inquiring about the availability of Chancellor via trade. The New York Giants were the only team mentioned specifically. Could the Chargers be one of those callers?
They would be foolish not to. This trade makes too much sense for both sides.
Personally, I believe the Chargers will franchise Weddle after this season. Homegrown talent should always come first. A player can be franchised for two seasons which would keep him in lightning bolts for the next three seasons. Management can decide when they want to let him leave instead of the player deciding. Weddle will still get paid a top salary for his position. The difference is instead of a secure two- or three-year extension, he would be playing a series of one-year deals.
A deal of that type isn’t what Weddle has in mind. If he does demand a trade as a result of the franchise tag, the Chargers would have to get something comparable in return because he is still technically under contract. A team can’t low ball San Diego with an offer because they don’t have to let him go. If Seattle gets out of the gates slowly to begin the season because of their depleted secondary (Thomas still isn’t fully recovered from offseason labrum surgery and has missed all preseason), it will either force them to reconsider Chancellor’s demands or look for a better option.
Telesco has done an admirable job signing a young nucleus of 27-and-under defensive talent to multi-year contracts with the intention of letting them become a tight, cohesive unit. Turnover doesn’t become an issue for another three seasons at the earliest. Doing so ties in with the new extension given to franchise quarterback Philip Rivers that will keep him a Charger through the year 2019. The sure-fire Hall-Of-Fame quarterback deserves a Super Bowl ring and this is all in the effort to get him one (or more).
If a trade has to be made this is the win-win for both sides. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
The Greg One
Here in sunny Phoenix, you can’t have consecutive conversations on any subject without the Super Bowl being mentioned. For good reason, Phoenix is the center of the universe this week and the game pitting the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks has all the makings of an epic encounter.
Then again, we thought the same thing about last season’s Super Bowl…
On the first snap of last season’s big game, the ball was sailed over Peyton Manning’s head and it was all downhill from there as the almighty Denver Broncos were boat raced by the Seahawks 43-8.
Are we doomed for a repeat of last season?
Let’s check the similarities. The Seahawks are the power of the NFC, featuring (arguably) the best secondary in the game and a stout defense that keeps opponents off the scoreboard while the offense gets ahead early and forces the opposition to play out of their comfort zone. The Patriots were the top team in the AFC or, perhaps, considered 1 and 1A most of the season when you include Denver in the mix. Both teams finished with identical 12-4 records and first round byes in the playoffs. In the end, the Patriots had the edge due to a 43-21 win over the Broncos. The fact that the Patriots are the AFC representative in the Super Bowl erases all remaining doubt.
The Patriots also feature a deep and talented secondary and the best game planning staff in the league in Bill Belichick and crew. The Patriots offense, like Seattle, is not explosive by definition but they have bursts of scoring that is usually enough to put teams away.
Both teams come armed with a play making quarterback and one star complimentary player. Seattle has Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch. New England has Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Aside from those tag teams, neither offense has a player that strikes fear into the opposition. The question is which tandem will be held in check the best. Both teams have slow, plodding offenses with short rhythmic passing attacks. Neither team has a propensity to fire the ball deep down the field.
The differences are Seattle has a more creative offensive attack with Wilson running the read-option. His ability to extend plays with his legs will create problems for the Patriots. New England has faced one running quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and no read option teams all season. The Patriots, boring style and all, do average 30 points per game to Seattle’s 24. All their offensive shortcomings are overshadowed by the ability of Brady to make the plays needed to win. Brady is in the argument of best quarterbacks of all time. New England is playing to cement their legacy while Seattle is hoping to create a legacy reminiscent of what the Patriots are doing now. Back to back Super Bowl wins over two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game will go a long way to doing so.
In the end, it boils down to can Seattle disrupt Tom Brady enough to make him average. He’s great when he has time to throw and has established a rhythm. When the pass rush forces him to slip and slide in the pocket he becomes average and prone to making mistakes. Seattle’s defense found its stride at the right time coming down the back stretch of the season as they reeled off six straight wins, allowing six points per game to the opposition. Only one team in that stretch scored more than 7 points.
For New England, the big question is can they stop Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is the most punishing runner in the league and over the course of a game defenders are less and less willing to tackle him head on. The Patriots have given up big rushing games to lesser backs this season. Moreno (132), Knile Davis (107), Chris Ivory (107), Matt Forte (114), Eddie Lacy (98) and Justin Forsett (129) in the Divisional Playoff against Baltimore. Stopping Lynch makes the read-option and play action ineffective which is the Seahawks bread and butter.
Thankfully, this game looks dead even which means we won’t be looking for something more interesting to do before halftime as was the case last year. The Seahawks will shackle Gronkowski for most of the game. He’ll find an opening for one short touchdown catch. Seattle strong safety Kam Chancellor will be the unsung hero of the game. The heartbeat of Seattle’s defense, force multiple incompletions on balls headed to Gronk and without his safety net Brady will falter.
The stingy Seahawks D will force field goals instead of allowing touchdowns in the red zone. Brady will throw for a pedestrian 250 yards and two touchdowns but the pass most talked about will be of the second half pick six he threw to Earl Thomas that broke the game open. One half of the Wilson/Lynch tag team will win the MVP and the ‘Hawks will succeed in going back-to-back by a score of 30-23.
Who you got, Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
Every football media pundit on television lauds the NFC West as the by far best division in football. On some shows it has even been mentioned that the NFC West is the toughest division in sports regardless of the sport. While the NFC West is definitely the talk of the league division-wise, it is hardly a forgone conclusion that the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are the best division in football.
The AFC West would beg to differ. While not as defensively dominant as the NFC West, the AFC West excels in the opposing category. The AFC West is the most offensively dominant division in football. The 1754 points scored by the AFC West teams best the closest division, the NFC North, by over 100 points (1,648). The NFC West led the league in fewest points allowed with a paltry 1,191. The next closest division was the NFC South with 1377 points allowed, a difference of 186.
The AFC and NFC West are the classic example of unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
That story played out in the last season’s Super Bowl as the highest scoring team in the league, the 13-3 Denver Broncos with 606 points scored faced the team that allowed the fewest points in the league, the 13-3 Seattle Seahawks with 231 points allowed. Both teams reached the same record in completely different fashions. Another old adage played out in this contest. Defense wins championships. The Seahawks embarrassed the Broncos 43-8, solidifying their season-long dominance with the Lombardi trophy. The win also put the NFC West as the best division going today.
But are they?
The NFC West was long the laughing-stock of the league until only three years ago. Keep in mind in 2010 the Seattle Seahawks created a national firestorm among football purists and analysts when they made the playoffs by winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record. It was during these three seasons that the NFC West rebuilt itself starting with the Rams drafting Sam Bradford in 2010. The 49ers drafted quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2011 draft. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted in the 2012 draft. Add to the mix players that are now household names like Seattle’s Legion Of Boom members Walter Thurmond (2010), Earl Thomas (2010) and Richard Sherman (2011) or San Francisco’s Aldon Smith (2011) Navorro Bowman (2010) to show how this division has risen only after years upon years as the NFL’s doormat.
On the other hand, the AFC West has long had dominant teams represented with the exception of the 2008 and 2011 seasons when San Diego and Denver won the division with 8-8 records, respectively. In both cases, they won the wild card game and lost in the divisional round. League dominance by a division is cyclical. The last time the NFC West dominated the way they have been in present years was the Steve Young era 49ers in the 90’s. During the second half of that decade, the division also featured the Kurt Warner-led ‘Greatest Show On Turf’ St. Louis Rams team. Now the NFC West looks primed for another long run of dominance as players like Kaepernick and Wilson mature and the team around them gets better suited to their talents. The question is, at this point, are they that much better than the AFC West?
Take a look at the principal teams. In the NFC West you have Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona as the heavies while St.Louis toils away in the basement. In the AFC West you have Denver, San Diego and Kansas City jockeying for control with Oakland living in the cellar. The AFC West was the only division to get three teams in the playoffs last season. The NFC was close to getting three teams in as well as Arizona went 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs. Call them victims of circumstance, but the Cardinals did lose three games last season by a field goal including a loss to the lowly Rams in the season opener. The big three in NFC West had 2 more wins than the big three in the AFC West by a 35-33 margin. They were by far the top two divisions in the NFL when you take a win count of the top three teams. They may be lapping the rest of the league, but not each other.
Look at the starting quarterbacks. Representing the NFC West you have Wilson, Kaepernick and Carson Palmer representing the Cardinals. In the AFC West you have Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. If you had to select one group of quarterbacks, team notwithstanding, to carry your team a for full season which group would you pick? The NFC group is the young upstarts, (Palmer notwithstanding) but Palmer is only in his second season in Arizona. The AFC West feature the proven quarterbacks. Manning and Rivers can light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree. Kaepernick and Wilson are on the rise but their best days are ahead of them. The AFC West crop are winding down their careers but Manning and Rivers represent the most dangerous quarterback tandem in any division.
Leaving Palmer and Smith out of the formula for a moment, in Manning and Rivers you have two of the most cerebral quarterbacks in the league. Give them time and they will eat defenses for lunch. There’s nothing they haven’t seen and they are the old-fashioned stand in the pocket, lead-footed gunslingers that are fading out of style in the NFL. Instead, teams fancy the new breed of quarterback with Wilson and Kaepernick as the prime examples. They are quick to scramble to extend a play. They are also very intelligent, game managers. They capitalize on field position granted by their stalwart defenses. Manning and Rivers have rarely had the benefit of top five defenses, instead making their mark with their arms and their superior knowledge.
This season, these divisions will battle it out in the regular season and when the smoke clears two things will be evident. One, neither division will get three teams in the playoffs. Two, we’ll know which division is truly the best in football because as you can see, no other division comes close. However, to answer the pundits, the NFC West is not without a doubt the best division in the NFL. They may be in the lead as they can boast the current Super Bowl champion but not by far. The safer thing to say is the WEST is the best division in the NFL, regardless of conference. Will the unstoppable force or the immovable object come out on top this year? Let the games begin.
What do you think? Which division is better?
The Greg One