Ed Luther, the Chargers' No. 2 quarterback for the last five seasons, is believed to be close to accepting an offer from the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League.
Luther, who became a free agent Feb. 1, is eager to become a starting quarterback, but is aware that it would be next to impossible with the Chargers, his agent, Leigh Steinberg, said Sunday.
The Bulls are in a position to make him an instant starter because their No.1 quarterback, Brian Sipe, suffered a knee injury in the season opener last weekend and is out indefinitely.
"Ed is seriously considering the offer," Steinberg said. "We expect to have a decision very soon.
"San Diego is a dream offense, and Ed's heart is with the Chargers. Dan Fouts is a close friend of his, and he understands that because of Dan's superlative play, he can not count on becoming the starter here. This is the ultimate choice for Ed--stay in Southern California, where he grew up, and have a secondary role with the Chargers, or become a starter in the USFL."
Luther, 28, has played with indifferent success during lengthy periods when Fouts was injured each of the last two seasons.
Coach Don Coryell has been an outspoken supporter of Luther and has predicted an outstanding career for the five-year veteran from San Jose State.
Coryell's view is shared by others in the Charger hierarchy, but there is less than a consensus that he should be retained at any cost.
He has a strong arm and is well-schooled in the Charger offense, but he never has been able to take full advantage of the absence of Fouts and establish himself indisputably as a player the team could not afford to forfeit.
Steinberg, naturally, takes a rosier view of his client's abilities.
"I think it is pretty widely agreed around the league that Ed is just about the top No. 2 quarterback around," Steinberg said.
"At this point in his career, starting is critical to Ed. I think anyone who has ever put in a long apprenticeship can appreciate that. He has very good feelings toward his teammates and coaches, but his greatest goal is something that is not within San Diego's power to grant--a guaranteed starting job."
Luther has not sought--and would not, under any circumstances--contractual assurance of the No. 1 job with the Chargers, according to Steinberg.
"The Chargers know his goals and desires," Steinberg said. "He wants to be the captain of his own ship. This is a very difficult thing for Ed to grapple with. The least desirable thing is to depend on a friend getting hurt for him to have a chance to play."
If Luther is lost, the backup role would fall to third-year man Bruce Mathison, who has received little grooming in practice. Another alternative would be to pursue a more experienced player via a trade, or maybe spend a draft choice on a quarterback.
But the team has numerous other needs to fill in the draft--notably in the offensive line, the defensive line and the secondary--and there is not a very appealing crop of quarterbacks coming out of college this year.