SAN DIEGO – We continue or look at the main storylines for the San Diego Chargers heading into training camp with ESPN NFL insider Field Yates, who offers his take on the team and Eric Weddle’s contract status.
Weddle reported to the team’s mandatory minicamp in June after skipping most of the offseason work.
The 30-year-old safety enters the final year of his contract amid desires for a new deal. Weddle said he felt disrespected by the way the organization is handling negotiations.
Weddle led the defense by playing 961 snaps last season. Since 2008, Weddle has played an average of 937 snaps during the regular season. He is the only safety in the NFL named first-team or second-team All-Pro for five straight seasons. Weddle is scheduled to make $7.5 million in base salary in the final year of a five-year, $40 million deal.
“I understand that Eric Weddle is 30 years old,” Yates said. “But this is a home-grown player, who I think if you go back to 2011 when he signed his extension, if you were to go through all of the players who signed contracts of at least five years, three’s like three guys that are still on those deals.
“I understand is has gotten ugly publicly between Eric, his agent and the team. But this guy is about as reliable as you’ll find in the defensive backfield in the NFL. He’s playing probably 97 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s playing a huge chunk of the defensive snaps. I just don’t think you find too many guys like that.
“Is he the same athlete he was a few years ago? I don’t know for sure, but I think obviously at some point, everybody starts to dip a little bit in that area. He may not get Earl Thomas money, but I think at some point he’ll get a new deal.”
Yates points to two transactions the Chargers made this offseason as reasons they should consider a contract extension for Weddle.
San Diego signed cornerback Brandon Flowers to a four-year, $36.4 million deal, including $20.5 million in guaranteed money. At 29, Flowers is just a year younger than Weddle.
The Chargers also picked up the fifth-year, rookie option of edge rusher Melvin Ingram. The 26-year-old is scheduled to make $7.751 million in 2016.
“For those who say you don’t pay a veteran defensive back, well, they just did with Brandon Flowers,” Yates said. “And I like Brandon a lot. I think he’s a terrific player. But if someone wants to say, 'Don’t pay a veteran defensive back,' and then also be a proponent of the Brandon Flowers’ extension -- that to me seems a little backwards.
“Melvin Ingram is going to be paid a lot of money in 2016 if he’s on the roster the first day of the league year. If you want to look at who’s been more reliable since getting into the league -- despite the fact that there’s a big age discrepancy -- if they feel comfortable giving Melvin that number, I would think Eric would be a guy who would be worthwhile to continue to pay at a reasonable number as well.”
Whether it’s in San Diego or somewhere else, Yates expects Weddle to be paid what he’s worth next season.
“Eric Weddle to me is a player I feel you should look to take care of,” Yates said. “Maybe it’s one that they feel like they want to wait until the end of the year because there’s a pecking order. I understand Philip [Rivers] has to be the first priority, and has to be the first contract to get done for a lot of reasons.
“It’s never algorithmic how to approach free agency. But I will say drafting and developing is the tried-and-true method. The age thing is a consideration, but it dovetails with the player performance.
“I can’t imagine that there are too many signs of regression right now with Eric Weddle, but the team knows that better than anyone else -- I don’t want to say that I have all the answers and they don’t. But he seems like a player that every time I see him, he’s making a play, making a tackle or making an interception or doing something on special teams. He seems like a guy every team craves, but are hard to find.”