AFC West: David Canter

The San Diego Chargers have been one of the most effective teams in the NFL the past two days. They continued their strong work by securing safety Eric Weddle for a record contract. Weddle was the Chargers’ top free-agency priority.

His agreement comes a day after the Chargers kept right tackle Jeromey Clary and tight end Randy McMichael and struck a deal with veteran inside linebacker Takeo Spikes. The team agreed to terms with veteran safety Bob Sanders prior to the lockout.

The agreement with Weddle means San Diego’s defense has a chance to be very strong once again. It was ranked No. 1 in the NFL last year and Weddle was a big part of it. He is playmaker who is very smart and who offers strong leadership. The Football Outsiders think it is a smart move for the Chargers to keep Weddle.

He fits in well with Spikes and Sanders because of the way he plays the game. Some people around the league may be startled to see that he is now the highest-paid safety in NFL history after agreeing to a five-year, $40 million deal that includes $19 million in guaranteed money, but Weddle means a lot to San Diego.

He is a pillar in the community and he has never been in any trouble. He is a leader in the locker room as well. The Chargers have been reluctant to give star receiver Vincent Jackson an extension partly because of off-field concerns. Weddle never gave the Chargers any headaches and he was rewarded for it.

“The Chargers stepped up,” Weddle’s agent, David Canter, just told me. “I can’t say enough about that organization.”

Weddle had significant interest from seven teams, Canter said. Among the teams believed to be interested were the Jaguars, Browns, Vikings, Cowboys and Texans. Canter said he focused on getting a deal done with the Chargers Wednesday morning. Weddle, a Southern California native, didn’t want to play anywhere else.

Expect the Chargers to try to re-sign linebacker Kevin Burnett. However, players like receiver Malcom Floyd and running back/returner Darren Sproles may be on the way out. The Chargers didn’t make those players priorities.
For a team that usually doesn’t wade into unrestricted free agency, the San Diego Chargers made a big splash on Thursday night.

As labor uncertainty threatens to shut down the league for an indefinite amount of time, the usually passive Chargers got a jump on the league by coming to terms with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders. Sanders, 30, signed a one-year deal.



If healthy, Sanders is a substantial addition to this defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the NFL. However, counting on Sanders’ health is not advisable. Sanders has played in just nine regular-season games for the Colts in the past three years. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Sanders played in one game in 2010. He was hurt in the season opener with a torn left biceps. He was recently cut by the Colts.

“We are all very excited to add Bob Sanders to our defense,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “We have always held him in high regard. He’s a smart, physical, instinctive player. His intensity and playmaking ability can make an immediate impact on our defense.”

Sanders, 5-foot-8, 206 pounds, is a tough, tenacious player when healthy. He will give this team toughness. The Chargers clearly hope to pair him with Eric Weddle. However, Weddle could end up being an unrestricted free agent. If he does, he will be very popular on the open market. The Chargers will have to pay to keep him. Weddle’s agent, David Canter, said Thursday night that Sanders’ deal did not impact Weddle’s decision.

“Eric is excited,” Canter said. “This is a tremendous pickup for San Diego. If Eric is in San Diego, he and Bob will make a great safety tandem.”

If Weddle stays, Steve Gregory will likely be the nickel defensive back.

This is a gutsy move by a team that clearly understands that it needs to make some big moves this year to recapture its status as one of the NFL’s better teams. San Diego was 9-7 in 2010 and finished out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Obviously, the Chargers know they must become more aggressive.

It will be interesting to see what else this team does once free agency starts. The Chargers have five drafts picks in the first three rounds. An active free agency and a fruitful draft could help make this team elite again.

If Sanders can stay healthy, this was a major first step.