COSTA MESA, Calif. -- When healthy, Jason Verrett is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the NFL.
The problem is the Los Angeles Chargers have rarely seen the TCU product and first-round pick healthy and on the field.
That will be the case again this season, as a team source confirmed ESPN's Adam Schefter’s report that Verrett will be placed on injured reserve later Saturday, ending his season.
According to the report, Verrett will have surgery on the same left knee that he suffered a partial ACL tear and had surgery on last October.
With Verrett out for the season, he will have missed 39 of a possible 64 games in his four seasons with the Chargers.
Because of his slight frame at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, NFL draft analysts had concerns about Verrett’s durability heading into the 2014 draft. Bradley Roby was still on the board and the Chargers had him in for a visit, but general manager Tom Telesco chose to go with Verrett instead at No. 25, and the Denver Broncos chose Roby six picks later at No. 31.
At 5-11 and 200 pounds, Roby hasn’t missed a game as the slot defender on the Broncos' talented No Fly Zone defensive backfield, totaling 136 tackles, 6 interceptions, 2 sacks and 34 pass breakups.
Earlier this year, Telesco said the Chargers will exercise the team’s fifth-year option on Verrett’s rookie contract, meaning he will make $8.526 million if he’s on the roster in 2018.
Because the extension is guaranteed for injury, the Chargers could be on the hook for Verrett’s final year of his rookie deal if he can’t pass a physical in March, which is likely as he would be recovering from knee surgery.
So, it’s unlikely the Chargers will execute something similar with Verrett that they did with former first-round selection D.J. Fluker, when the Bolts got out of the final year of the Alabama product’s rookie deal by releasing him before the new league year began in March.
And by having surgery now, Verrett can go into the final year of his deal healthy and motivated to earn a contract extension.
However, with Verrett’s inability to consistently stay on the field, Telesco should strongly consider his presence on the roster in the future.
It’s too bad because Verrett checks all the other boxes. He’s a good teammate, a hard worker and wants to be great. But as Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre likes to say, availability is your best ability in the NFL. And corners with game-changing talent are hard to find.
Trevor Williams will start again in place of Verrett. Williams has played solidly in Verrett's absence. And rookie Desmond King has been productive as the team’s slot defender.
After that, the Chargers are looking at developmental prospects like undrafted rookie Michael Davis -- already on the active roster -- or perhaps moving up Jeff Richards or Craig Mager, a third-round selection in 2015, from the team’s practice squad.
Regardless of what Telesco decides to do in the short term, adding a top-notch cornerback has now moved up the list of needs for the Chargers. And at some point the Chargers have to figure out if they want to commit long term to a player that has struggled to stay on the field.