Ok so mid-season trades aren't common place in the NFL especially with marque players and Ken Whisenhunt isn't the type of coach who likes to "shake things up" but the thought of adding a legitimate pass rusher to this defense is just too intriguing to ignore. According to multiple reports Merriman and the Chargers' GM don't exactly see eye to eye and they not expected to retain his services next year (he'll be a free agent). We all know Merriman, his ability to rush the passer, his injury and his history with sticking needles in his rear end, but would he be a good fit for the Arizona Cardinals?
First we'd have to know the answer to two questions, how healthy is he and what would it take to get him?
- Health: They guys at Bolts from the Blue (Chargers' SBN site) all seem to agree that Merriman isn't 100% yet and his stat line certainly seems to agree. He seriously has not sacked a quarterback in a regular season game since December 30, 2007 but this is also a 25 year old player with 39.5 career sacks, three All-Pro selections and rookie defensive player of the year award under his belt. Eventually he'll be healthy and if the Cardinals were patient with him they might just end up with the best pass rusher in the NFL.
- How much: Make no mistake about it, the Chargers haven't hung a "Clearance" sign on Merriman's neck. Whoever inquires about him in a trade is trading for a guy who averaged over 13 sacks per season from '05 to '07, not the guy who missed 15 games last year and has already missed one game this season. At the very least you're probably talking about a first round pick and maybe talking about the same value that the Cardinals were asking in return for Boldin (first and a third).
- To throw a third 'iron in the fire,' Merriman's contract status would have to be evaluated before/during trade talks. Under the current labor agreement (set to expire at the end of this season), he'll be a free agent this off season (UFA), but if a new labor agreement isn't reached (as is looking more and more likely), he would be a RFA so he'd be under control for at least one more season.
The bottom line in my mind is that Merriman would instantly upgrade the pass rush and would almost certainly be better than any OLB that we could draft in the first round next year, especially considering he'll be more healthy. So if the trade is him for a our first round pick, I'd think long and hard, but what if it's more than that? Does Merriman help put this defense into elite status if he's a consistent pass rusher this season?
Another linebacker who's mentioned as being "avaliable" is the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson, who has lost the starting job in Kansas City but is still young (26) and has some talent. He started 58 games during his first four seasons and put up decent stat lines, averaging 87 tackles and three sacks per season. He's got decent size (6-3, 242) but has spent most of his career as a 4-3 OLB. He's officially listed as a backup at ILB in the Chiefs new 3-4 defense his size would at least suggest that he could handle the inside. Johnson may or may not be a future starter on the inside of a 3-4 defense but for a team that's very thin at the position and could possibly lose their best ILB next summer, he's an intriguing name. His loss of starting spot means that his asking price should also plummet. Maybe the Chiefs would take a mid-round or later pick or maybe Todd Haley would like one of "his guys" like Jerheme Urban or something like that plus a late round pick. Thoughts?