SS Clinton Hart (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The Chargers began the day with half of their starters scheduled for free agency by the end of the 2009 season. One down, 10 to go. General Manager A.J. Smith started at the bottom of the list with the last line of defense, inking safety Clinton Hart to a new five-year deal.
The Chargers signed starting strong safety Clinton Hart to a new five-year deal that keeps him in San Diego until 2012. Hart was entering the final year of his contract and pushed to get a new deal in place before next season began.
As a first year starter in 2007, Hart contributed a career-high five interceptions to a defense that led the league in takeaways. He couldn’t be more pleased to finish what he started.
“It’s a day that I’ve been waiting for,” Hart told the team's official Web site. “I’ve put in a lot of work. I feel blessed and I’m happy to be part of the Chargers for a few more years so we can make that run at a World Championship.”
Hart played a pivotal role in the Chargers run at the ring last season. He started in all 16 regular season games plus three playoff matchups. He finished his sixth season on the team with 102 tackles.
Hart's durability is crucial to the Chargers, as the only backup safety on the roster is converted cornerback Steve Gregory.
“We are very happy to have Clinton as a part of our future,” A.J. Smith said. “He was a first-year starter last year and was a major part of our team’s success. We believe his best football is ahead of him.”
The Chargers hope Smith is right. Hart will have to continue his success with a new running mate in the secondary.
With Marlon McCree now a member of the Denver Broncos, second-year man Eric Weddle will step in at the safety spot opposite Hart.
The combination of Hart and Weddle will give the Chargers more speed and athleticism patrolling the back line, which should allow the corners to take even more chances underneath.