Shawne Merriman made news earlier this week by switching agents, leaving Tom Condon and hiring David Dunn. The move is now seen as a precursor to an eventual trade from the Chargers of the former Pro Bowl linebacker.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Condon's high demands for a long-term contract scuttled three potential trades during last month's draft. Merriman's move to hire Dunn is seen as a way to hasten a trade — and a new contract.

Acee reports that the Chargers came close to making deals with the Saints and two other unnamed teams, but that no deal came off because of the long-term contract situation. Merriman (pictured), who had 39 1/2 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl in his first three NFL seasons, has been far less effective the last two years because of knee problems. 

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith has indicated to Merriman that he doesn't plan to extend his contract, which expires after the 2010 season. The Chargers are seeking no less than a first-round pick for Merriman. 

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Smith told Acee of the agent switch: "Shawne made a business decision that I'm sure he feels is in his best interest. Who players have to represent them means nothing to us. However, it means a great deal to the players. They should have an agent they feel comfortable with."

Smith declined to comment on whether the agent switch could hasten a trade.