The time has come to face the reality that Eric Weddle is not going to return to the San Diego Chargers for the 2016 season. He has made it quite clear that he has no intentions on returning to the team and will likely play elsewhere next season.
Losing your team captain and a member of the team for the last nine years is very difficult. The Chargers will have a huge hole to fill in replacing the former three-time pro-bowl selection.
Weddle in many ways was the heart and soul of the defense. His play this past season was quite honestly sub-par though and you can see the writing on the wall for the Chargers. The franchise has not hesitating in making tough cuts throughout its career. Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Lionel James, Donnie Edwards and Ronnie Harmon were all let go as soon as the team deemed them over the hill or too costly.
Weddle is certainly not over the hill, but he seemed indifferent this season and appeared focus more on his contract than the team. He also seemed very focused on the fact the Chargers last few games this season were his last as a Charger, and really made no mention of the fact the franchise was in serious jeopardy. Some Chargers fans took offense to that and wondered where Weddle’s heart was during the season.
There is one player in particular that sticks out as a great potential replacement for Weddle at the safety position. Eric Berry brings a physical presence to the field and also brings a great presence to the locker room. He is a unrestrictive free agent and the Chargers could be very interested in this young man.
The 27-year-old Berry is a recent cancer survivor and after missing most of the 2014 season with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He went on to have a pro-bowl year for the Chiefs this past year and is cancer free. An absolute heartwarming story in itself.
The former 1st round pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of Tennessee is a great athlete and an even better person. He was a three-year starter at the University and even played some tailback his sophomore year for the Volunteers.
Berry is described by teammates as the consummate professional. He has a terrific work ethic and with his story can easily motivate all around him. That is the type of leader you want in your locker room. You want a guy who can rally the troops and will mentor young players on what it is like to be a professional football player.
Berry is a four-time pro-bowl selection in his six NFL seasons. In fact he has made the pro-bowl every year that he was healthy. Besides his cancer scare in 2014, he missed most of the 2011 season with a knee injury. The man can play the game and his health is not an issue anymore.
The Chiefs have many free agents this off season including Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, so signing Berry is not a forgone conclusion. If the Chargers get aggressive, he could be had for the right price. The ball is in the Chargers court.
The Chargers have many issues that need to be addressed. The line on both sides of the ball is in horrible shape and the team needs to also make a descison on what to do with Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green at the tight end position. Weddle is all but gone and the team will need a replacement.
The best thing about Berry is he would provide an excellent safety option for the team and also create an instant locker room stigma that the young players can rally behind. The Chargers 2016 season is going to be full of uncertainty once again, but the team cannot have that uncertainty in the locker room if they plan to succeed. Playing the game of football is difficult enough. You don’t need outside distractions taking away from what is needed to prepare yourself for the grueling season.