He's been the San Diego Chargers' best defender over the last two seasons, and now, safety Eric Weddle is going to get paid like it. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune was the first to report that Weddle had re-signed with the Chargers on Wednesday morning. And judging from this tweet sent out by David Canter, Weddle's agent, the Bolts broke the bank to retain him.
Congratulations to DEC MANAGEMENT client Eric Weddle on becoming the highest paid safety in NFL history. San Diego Super Chargers
Acee also reports that it's a five-year deal worth $40 million, and $19 million in guaranteed money, and Weddle's value is undeniable. As San Diego's defensive focus switched by necessity from the front seven to the back seven, and the front line diminished in effectiveness, Weddle became the team's defensive "X-Factor" — the primary reason the Chargers finished fourth in the NFL in Football Outsiders' pass defense metrics.
The Chargers moved up 22 spots for the right to draft Weddle 38th overall in the 2007 draft, and they've watched him grow into a potential star. Other teams know what was on the market, as Weddle had interest from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys. But Weddle had expressed an interest in staying with the Chargers, and the Chargers obviously felt the same way.
It's easy to see Weddle's value on tape. Frequently playing center field unless his impressive ability to read coverages took him to the direction of a play before it even happened, Weddle displayed a fully-functional and multi-faceted skill set. Not only is he solid in coverage, but he has a real knack for coming down and wiping out screen passes and outside run plays — particularly after other Chargers defenders have missed tackles.
Weddle shows great discipline when ending a play in space; he's rarely juked or forced out of place by misdirection, which is why the Chargers can trust him as the last line of defense. Receivers running directional routes past the Chargers' linebackers can find themselves playing the role of defender if they were in the wrong place. Weddle isn't physical enough for some, but that's nitpicking when you consider his overall value to the team.
A year after he blew out relationships with several key players and probably kept the Chargers out of the playoffs with his incessant haggling, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith is finally realizing the very simple credo: If you want to win, you've got to pay your best players. No question he's done so here.
The only guy happier than Weddle about his own contract might be Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, whose current contract is up after the 2011 season. Weddle just set the bar, and Polamalu might want to send Weddle a nice fruit basket.