Exclusive: Edwards' focus, '06 in San Diego

Exclusive: Edwards' focus, '06 in San Diego

Donnie Edwards has taken a more cautious approach with the media than the way he tackles defenders on the football field. With trade winds calling his name, the Chula Vista native is focused on being as productive as he can be with the San Diego Chargers.

There is much speculation that Donnie Edwards' presence on the trading block is the result of the rift between A.J. Smith and Marty Schottenheimer. Although that rift is undeniable, Edwards is being shopped for many practical reasons. He is 33 years old, his financial demands have been deemed too high, and the team would like to get something in return for his services now rather than lose him without compensation after the season.

Rumors that the team might just release Donnie Edwards appear unfounded. There would be no logic in such a maneuver. The team is well below the salary cap, and Edwards is still a more-than-capable defender. He has averaged over 147 tackles and 3.5 interceptions since signing with the Chargers four years ago.

The only scenario in which the team would part with Edwards for less than market value would be if his attitude or contract demands became a distraction. And although he has been adamant in his quest for higher compensation, his attitude has yet to turn sour.

"I'm just working on being the best player I can be in the 2006 season," Edwards said.

Still, it appears the Chargers are prepared to move on without him. They certainly have the depth to handle his departure. They have three young reserves – Stephen Cooper, Matt Wilhelm and Carlos Polk – who are all working on one-year deals. The team would surely like to see how those three handle extended roles on defense before confronting their expiring contracts next offseason.

The team also drafted inside linebacker Tim Dobbins in the fifth round of this year's draft. Such excessive depth is necessary because Randall Godfrey, the starter opposite Edwards, is expected to retire after the season. Interestingly, Godfrey and Edwards are exactly the same age. While Godfrey is contemplating retirement, Edwards is contemplating his next big contract.

Still, Edwards believes he is in excellent physical condition, and is certain he can continue to play at a high level.

"My teammates and my coaches know what to expect out of me," he said.

Unfortunately, Edwards has no idea what to expect out of his general manager. There have been rumblings that the Patriots and Saints are interested in Edwards, but that remains mere speculation at this point. All that is clear is that Edwards' next contract will be given to him by another team.

This is not the ideal resolution for Edwards, a San Diego native, but it now appears inevitable. Should he leave before or during the season, Stephen Cooper will likely assume his role in the starting lineup. Should he stay, the Chargers can only hope he vents his frustrations on opposing running backs and not in the locker room.

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