Junior Seau, the heart of the Chargers' defense for more than a decade, appears to be on his way out of San Diego.
The 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker, a stalwart since his rookie year in 1990, has been given permission to seek a trade. If that doesn't materialize, he probably will be released.
"We approached it on middle ground, where we'd involve Junior in the process of exploring a trade," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We sought to try to address what was in the best interests of both parties, to keep our options open. It's a difficult situation."
Seau, 34, was voted to the Pro Bowl last season but missed the game after undergoing surgery for an ankle injury. He missed three games and part of another.
The Pro Bowl selection was a surprise to many, especially since he wasn't as dominant as he had been in previous seasons, and he was only the team's third-leading tackler.
"We don't think he's finished as a player," Schottenheimer said.
Schottenheimer said the Chargers made their decision after evaluating their defense. The unit ranked 30th in yardage allowed last season and last in pass defense. The Chargers allowed eight games of 300 yards or more passing, including two 400-plus games. The team lost seven of its last nine games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
In other moves Friday:
Quarterback Shane Matthews signed with Tampa Bay as the backup to Brad Johnson. Matthews replaces Rob Johnson, who signed with Washington last week, taking Matthews' old backup spot there.
Philadelphia signed linebacker Reggie Wayne, who was released last Monday by Green Bay. He will replace Shawn Barber, signed as a free agent by Kansas City.
Former Eagles linebacker Barry Gardner signed with Cleveland. He was primarily a special teams and nickel player in Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh re-signed quarterback Charlie Batch, the former starter in Detroit. He will back up Tommy Maddox after being the third-stringer last season behind Maddox and Kordell Stewart, who signed with Chicago on Thursday.