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It was common knowledge that OLB Shawne Merriman would not be back with the Chargers next season. For that reason, his calf injury proved to be fairly costly.
A three-time Pro Bowler who looked to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career after notching 17 sacks in 12 games in 2006, Merriman has been largely ineffective since undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, which forced him to miss all but one game in 2008. Returning in '09, he had just four sacks in 14 contests that season and didn't have any in ’10. Dealing with a calf injury suffered in Week Three, he was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 13 with a minor-injury designation, which means he must be released by the team when he's healthy enough to play again.
From what we hear, GM A.J. Smith was trying hard not to lose Merriman while getting nothing in return. Smith had been working the phones to get a trade in place prior to the league's Oct. 19 trading deadline, but the fact that the sixth-year linebacker was hurt made him a very difficult commodity to move. Smith also had the option to hold on to Merriman for now and let him depart as a free agent in the offseason, a maneuver which could have netted San Diego a compensatory draft pick. However, with LBs Donald Butler, James Holt and Jyles Tucker all on I.R., the team couldn't afford to waste a roster spot on an injured Merriman and ultimately had to cut him loose.
While there were a number of factors that led to Merriman's time in San Diego to come to an inglorious end — notably, his ever-souring relationship with Smith — we're told that his inability to stay healthy and contribute was his undoing. Given the injury issues the Bolts have had at linebacker, they would have been willing to stick with Merriman's diminishing skills, but he simply couldn't get back on the field, constantly dealing with nagging injuries for the past two seasons.
Still just 26 years old, Merriman likely will catch on somewhere else once released. However, no team will think about giving him a long-term contract until he proves that he can play at full strength over a prolonged period of time. What was once a very promising career now will have to be rejuvenated elsewhere.