JUDGE: Seau becomes an unwanted player

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Clark Judge

I don't understand why San Diego has to get rid of Pro Bowl linebacker , but, then again, I don't understand why the have to move their summer training camp from La Jolla to Carson, either. What I do get loud and clear is what Seau is liable to find out there now that he has permission to seek a trade. And it's not much of anything. A survey of NFL general managers, player personnel directors and scouts indicated that there is little or no market for the most decorated defensive player in San Diego history. Sure, I know Seau's been elected to the Pro Bowl the past 12 seasons and led the in tackles in eight of his 13 seasons with them. But the NFL is a league of what's happening now, and nobody's sure what's happening with . All they know is that the last three years he's been hurt, including a left ankle injury that in 2002 caused him to miss a career-high three-and-a-half games and to undergo surgery after the season. Combine that with his age — he's 34 — and a contract that includes $2.7 million in guaranteed money this season, and the trail turns surprisingly cold for one of the game's most productive and most charismatic performers. "My question is, is he healthy?" said an AFC pro personnel director. "And if he is, is he going to be the player he was last year or the year before? Because last year he was bad. Yeah, I know he played on a sore ankle, but when guys across the league turn on film to see of him they see someone who had a bad season. And that'll kill you. They're just too many uncertainties for anyone to try to trade for him." One NFC scout who watched Seau last year stood up for the linebacker, saying he never should have played on the crippled ankle. He pointed specifically to the ' Sept. 29 defeat of New England, when Seau played against his wishes — and played so horribly that he vowed to sit down the following week, no matter what coaches advised. "It was tough to watch," the scout said of the New England game. "Junior was a sitting duck. He simply couldn't move on the ankle. It was like he had a target on his jersey. It was embarrassing, and Junior knew it." So does he have something left? "Absolutely," he said. "Sure, he's slowed down a step, but he's not as bad as the make him out to be." Then who makes the first move on him? "Nobody," he said. "At least nobody's going to trade for him." There have been suggestions that City might be interested, but the just signed outside linebacker and moved — whom they re-signed — to middle linebacker, so they're in no hurry to do anything before June 1 when, in all likelihood, Seau will be released. At Seau's news conference last week someone wondered if he would be interested in playing for the , but that's not the issue. The point is that the wouldn't be interested in Seau. They already have and as outside linebackers — both of whom played well last year — and , a first-round pick last year, inside. To accommodate Seau they'd have to restructure their defense, and that's not about to happen. "Anyone who sees this guy twice a year knows there's the risk of injury," said one AFC scout. So do those who don't. While you'd think a physical would allay a prospective suitor's fears, there is no guarantee that Seau won't break down again. One NFC general manager wondered why his club would have an interest in Seau when the — the only club Seau played for — had none. In fact, he said, he heard the were so down on the guy that they wanted him to play on third downs only. Maybe. All I know is that Seau never was a favorite of ownership, dating back to a prolonged holdout his rookie season. I also know that when San Francisco played San Diego last year the ' offensive staff told players there were two defenders they wanted them to watch at all times: One was strong safety ; the other was . Now one is gone, and the other is on his way out — and I'm still not sure why. "I think the think (Seau) doesn't have much left," an AFC pro personnel director said. "If that's the case, why would you trade for him?" Fair enough. Then there's the contract. Under terms of the deal Seau negotiated with the , $2.7 million of a contract that includes a $3 million salary is guaranteed. Which means if you acquire him by trade you also acquire the contract ... and nobody's stepping forward to take that deal. "I don't see anybody trading for him before June 1," said one AFC general manager. He spoke for the majority. Senior writer covers the NFL for and can be reached at his e-mail address:
Tagged: Chiefs, Raiders, Patriots, Chargers, Mike Maslowski, Eric Barton, Junior Seau, Kansas, Napoleon Harris

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