There oughta be a Law . . . in Chargers' future


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Jan 22, 2006
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There oughta be a Law . . . in Chargers' future

June 4, 2006

Reader Richard Cole of Encinitas would like to know why the Chargers don't take a look at Ty Law.

We thought we knew, but we thought wrong. The Chargers have looked at the free-agent cornerback, and they have yet to look away.

“His agent called before the draft and we discussed it,” Bolts General Manager A.J. Smith said Friday. “We have interest.”

Smith used the present tense “have,” to indicate that his interest is ongoing. Which, when you think about it, ought to be obvious. Though the Chargers spent their first-round draft choice on cornerback Antonio Cromartie, they are not so deep in the secondary as to ignore the availability of a five-time Pro Bowler.

This is the same team, remember, that started Sammy Davis 30 times over the past three seasons. This is a place where pass coverage has long been lacking.

Law will likely land somewhere else – speculation centers on Kansas City and New England – but Smith has both the means and the motivation to sign this shutdown corner. (Which, in essence, was the argument Cole advanced via e-mail last week.)

MEANS: With more than $14 million in offseason cap room (a number derived from a team's top 51 contracts), the Chargers have more financial flexibility than any NFL franchise except the Philadelphia Eagles and Patriots.

“I want to have lots of cap room,” Smith said, “so I can do anything at any time. I want to know I can go out and get a player or two (without having to clear salary through cuts).”

MOTIVATION: In sharing the league lead last year with 10 interceptions, Law picked off as many passes individually as the Chargers did collectively. In a related story, the Bolts allowed 224.9 passing yards per game last year, ranking 28th among the 32 NFL teams.

Sure, Smith has interest in Law. How could he not?

That Law remains unsigned four months following his divorce from the New York Jets is a reflection of his price rather than his popularity. He's said to be seeking something close to $10 million in guaranteed money – or four times his 2005 base salary. This helps explain why numerous teams have expressed interest in the 32-year-old corner without engaging in hard bargaining.

Conceivably, Law could become more affordable as training camp gets closer. But he could also gain leverage (and avoid two-a-days) by waiting until the inevitable preseason injuries impact the marketplace.

Either way, the money figures to be fabulous. Last season, free-agent cornerback Anthony Henry landed a $10 million signing bonus from the Dallas Cowboys and Gary Baxter got $9 million up front from the Cleveland Browns. Last month, cornerback Nate Clements, the Buffalo Bills' “franchise” player, signed a one-year deal worth $7.2 million.

“The great ones don't come cheap,” Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said after Law visited the Seahawks in April.

Since then, Law has taken physicals for the Patriots and Tennessee Titans. He has remained in close contact with Chiefs coach Herman Edwards, who coached Law last year with the Jets. He has left a lot of doors open, if only to encourage competitive bidding.

“Herm and Carl (Peterson, the Chiefs' GM) certainly have an open phone to listen to anything that (Law's) agents put out there,” Chiefs spokesman Pete Morris said. “But I wouldn't call it negotiations.”

If Smith has established a negotiating position concerning Law, it could be characterized as passive/aggressive. When agent Kevin Poston initially inquired about the Chargers' interest, Smith's ballpark parameters failed to trigger further talks.

Smith's stated policy is to preassign a value to prospective acquisitions and then determine if the two sides are close enough for serious haggling. He does not chase after free agents with infatuated desperation, but cold-blooded calculation.

Sometimes, Smith seems so detached and clinical that you wonder if he's playing the game a little too hard to get. Judging by the lack of follow-up from both sides, it would be logical to deduce that the Chargers' primary interest in Law may be to ensure no other team signs him at a discount.

Smith declined to detail the financial aspects of his conversations with Poston, and the agent did not immediately respond to a telephone message. Still, Smith's interest is sufficiently strong that he studied each of Law's 10 interceptions from last year in an effort to determine whether the player was picked on or prescient.

“Were they great anticipation,” Smith asked, “or did the ball bounce three times?”

Presumably, Smith's unshaken interest is a sign that Law's picks were more often the product of instinct than happenstance. He liked what he saw. He would like to see more.
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