Two-time All-Pro linebacker Takeo Spikes has been released by the San Diego Chargers after starting all 32 games for them over the past two seasons.
The team's official Twitter page confirmed the move on Thursday:
The 36-year-old Spikes has enjoyed a very long and productive NFL career since being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 13 overall pick in the 1998 draft. Spikes racked up over 100 combined tackles in each of his first five seasons with the struggling franchise before leaving for the Buffalo Bills.
In his first two years in Buffalo, Spikes garnered both of his All-Pro distinctions and also made a trip to the Pro Bowl in each year as a result. The 2004 campaign was particularly impressive, as Spikes picked off five passes and had two defensive touchdowns.
Spikes has long been one of the more underrated linebackers in the game, with an all-around skill set to envy, particularly with respect to pass coverage.
By releasing Spikes, the Chargers save $3 million in cap room, as noted by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Florio also reports that Spikes fully intends to play in 2013. As frugal as teams must be with respect to the salary cap, letting go of a veteran and mentor like Spikes could prove costly for the Chargers.
Unfortunately, Spikes has spent the majority of his career on struggling teams. He actually holds the record for most regular-season games played without having made the postseason even once.
That lack of team success has hurt Spikes' profile a bit as far as being considered amongst the better players at his position. It shouldn't though, because Spikes is truly one of the best linebackers of this generation.
Chargers GM Tom Telesco had some glowing words about Spikes, as documented by PhiladelphiaEagles.com's Adam Caplan:
Takeo is a true professional and a class act. We’re grateful for his many contributions to the Chargers organization, both on and off the field, and wish him nothing but the best in the future.
ESPN's Bill Williamson points out that Spikes wanted to return to San Diego. He also missed just two tackles all season, and both of those were in the passing game. Thus, he was literally unflappable against the run.
NFL's Ian Rapoport reemphasizes Spikes' prospective value to another NFL team despite the fact that this is the twilight of the linebacker's career.
Spikes is a relatively mild cap casualty in the final year of a three-year contract in San Diego, and he is capable of still being a viable contributor. The market should be kind to Spikes despite his age, and he may get one more chance at competing in the playoffs after all.