Edwards pawn in GM-coach schism?


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Jan 22, 2006
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Edwards pawn in GM-coach schism?

By Tim Sullivan
April 16, 2006

Donnie Edwards wants to be judged on performance. He suspects he is being judged on personality.

Not his own, either.

The Chargers' prolific linebacker – pro football's second-leading tackler over the last seven seasons – wonders if he has been deemed expendable by General Manager A.J. Smith because of his close ties to head coach Marty Schottenheimer and agent Tom Condon.

“Am I the pawn in the rift between Marty and A.J.?” Edwards asked last night. “I'm trying to look for answers and the only thing I can see is Marty Schottenheimer and Tom Condon.”

Edwards followed Schottenheimer to San Diego from Kansas City, where their association dates to the 1996 NFL Draft. Because Schottenheimer's friction with Smith has become a recurring story, and Condon is the same guy who represented Eli Manning when he spurned the Chargers, Edwards can't help wondering if he's being pushed out as some form of payback.

“Maybe (Smith) is trying to weed out the guys he didn't bring in,” Edwards said. “But if you look at the numbers, it doesn't make sense.”

Edwards made 154 tackles last season – twice the total of any other Charger – yet Smith has confirmed industry scuttlebutt that the Chula Vista native is available for a prominent draft pick. Though Smith's position is surely influenced by Edwards' age (33), his salary ($3.55 million) and the impending expiration of his contract, the GM joked Friday that his only quibble with a published story concerning Edwards' availability was that it failed to mention that Condon was the player's agent.

“For him to put me out there like that is very disappointing,” Edwards said of being placed publicly on the trading block. “It's very disappointing because of what I do for the organization, the kind of guy that I am in the community and the on-field production.

“If I wasn't getting it done, I could understand. But I'm getting it done. If you look at my stats since I've been a Charger and compare me to a linebacker on another team – pick one – there's no one who comes close except (Miami's) Zach Thomas.”

Thomas is the only NFL player who has made more defensive stops than Edwards during the last seven seasons, but there's a curious disconnect between total tackles and NFL stature. To date, Edwards' statistics have earned him only one Pro Bowl appearance. His detractors sometimes characterize him as steady but unspectacular, a solid performer at a position defined by playmakers such as Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher: quarterback sacks, forced fumbles and hits that send players to the hospital.

“All the name players,” Edwards said, ruefully. “All the guys who are making double the amount that I'm making for half the production.”

For three years, Edwards said, he has sought a contract extension from the Chargers without reaching a consensus on his relative value. Though Smith admits to being “uncomfortable” with the Chargers' depth at inside linebacker and has negotiated numerous long-term deals with key players (including Condon client LaDainian Tomlinson), extending Edwards has not been seen as a top priority.

Whether Edwards might create more leverage with another team is contingent on whether the Chargers are able to make a deal.

“It's not up to me,” Edwards said. “I'm under contract. What can I do?”

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