The San Diego Chargers need to determine if one of their 53 roster spots is worth $3.75 million. That’s the price for Robert Meachem’s wasted roster spot.
Meachem, who signed a four-year, $25.5 million contract with a $7.5 million signing bonus last offseason, is still buried on the depth chart following an underwhelming season in which he caught just 14 passes for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns. If it weren’t for financial reasons, Meachem wouldn’t be anywhere near San Diego right now. However, his $5 million base salary in 2013 is fully guaranteed, and cutting him would result in a $10.6 million cap hit. His cap hit is $6.85 million if the Bolts choose to keep him or $3.75 million less.
Yet, what message does the front office send the team if they do retain him? Though there is talent somewhere hidden inside of him, Meachem is clearly not one of the best 53 players on the team right now. What’s worse is that Meachem, who turns 29 in September, isn’t physically what he once was. His past injuries and surgeries may have finally caught up with him. Meachem no longer has the speed to separate, runs poor routes and gives up on plays that have resulted in interceptions.
In 2012, many of Philip Rivers’ interceptions came when throwing to Meachem. Though the throws weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, Meachem didn’t exactly help Rivers by coming back to the ball or breaking it up so the defenders couldn’t get them. In Thursday’s preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Meachem again hung his quarterback, this time Charlie Whitehurst, out to dry. Meachem admittedly gave up on a play and didn’t come back to the ball, resulting in an interception.
This isn’t Meachem’s only disappointing performance of the offseason. In fact, Meachem reportedly looks lost in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense, much like last season when he seemed lost in Norv Turner’s.
What’s more concerning is if the Chargers feel obligated to play Meachem just to make him earn his $5 million salary. This is certainly more of a possibility now, following the season-ending injury to fellow receiver Danario Alexander. Meachem would certainly be a waste of money if he sat on the bench or if he were cut (he’ll make $5 million regardless), but he could possibly cost the Chargers more if he were given time on the field, especially if he causes interceptions and drops potential game-winning touchdown passes like he did last season.
If Meachem costs the Chargers a game or two, is that worth saving $3.75 million in cap space? I think not.