(For all the English majors out there, it’s actually a trilemma.)
The Chargers can sign Darren Sproles to a new deal, use the restricted free agency tender, or let him walk away via free agency.
Per a league source, the Chargers have given no indication to date as to their plans.
Because the Chargers used the franchise tag on Sproles last year, paying him $6.621 million for one season of football, application of any RFA tender above the lowest level that gives a right of first refusal with no compensation would require the Chargers to offer Sproles a guaranteed salary of $7.28 million.
And that’s arguably way too much for a part-time tailback and an above-average return man.
Sproles rushed for 343 yards in 2009, and he churned up 497 yards receiving. He returned 54 kickoffs for 24.1-yard average and 26 punts for a 7.0-yard average. He generated eight total touchdowns.
Actually, those numbers are better the 2009 stats of another $7 million-plus running back.
Reggie Bush rushed for 390 yards, added 335 yards receiving, returned 27 punts for a 4.8-yard average, and also scored eight total touchdowns for the Saints.
So we’d be more inclined to pay $7.28 million to Sproles. But the Chargers aren’t required to pay either — especially since the Chargers haven’t won a Super Bowl with Sproles, and none of the locals refer to him as “Jesus in Cleats.”
So what will the Chargers do? Bob Matthews of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has an interesting proposal — the Bills should trade Marshawn Lynch to San Diego.
Though Lynch’s history might make him less attractive, his $885,000 salary for 2010 is roughly 10 percent of what it’ll take for the Chargers to guarantee that they’ll be keeping Sproles for another season.
In the end, don’t be shocked if they opt for the lowest-level RFA tender, which will cost only $1.2 million and will give the Chargers a right to match any offer made. If so, look for Sproles and the union to go berserk if an interested suitor fails to use the Hutchinson/Burleson-style poison pill to come up with an offer that the Chargers wouldn’t match.
[Editor's note: A prior version of this item indicated that Sproles would be eligible for the franchise tag. Since he has not completed six NFL seasons, Sproles would revert to restricted free agency for 2010.]