The Chargers have a lot of free agents, and it is going to be difficult to figure out which free agents they will want to bring back for next year.
Although the draft and free agency will be important for the Chargers, there is no doubt that their decisions regarding their own free agents will be huge in determining their success on the field in 2012.
Here is the value of each Chargers free agent this offseason:
Unrestricted Free Agents
Patrick Crayton: $1 million (estimated)
Crayton was brought in by the Chargers in hopes that he would be an effective slot receiver in their passing game. Instead, Crayton turned out to be an overpaid bust who couldn't stay healthy.
However, it's clear that Crayton still has some talent, and a team will likely offer him a decent salary to be their slot receiver.
Na'il Diggs: $925,000 (estimated)
Diggs did exactly what he was signed to do last year—provide veteran leadership and provide depth at the inside linebacker position. He didn't do anything particularly well, but he didn't make any huge mistakes either.
Jared Gaither: $5 million (estimated)
Gaither played like a Pro Bowler as Marcus McNeill's injury replacement last season. In 317 snaps, Gaither allowed zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and just three quarterback pressures. After just seven games, Gaither earned himself a nice paycheck going forward.
Teams are going to be throwing money at him, as he has positioned himself as the cream of the crop among free agent offensive tackles.
Update: Gaither has re-signed with the Chargers for four years.
Antonio Garay: $4 million (estimated)
After splashing onto the scene in 2010, Garay tailed off during his 2011 season. He was still an effective run-stopper, but he didn't collapse the pocket nearly as much. It's evident that Garay is only a two-down player as he gets gassed easily.
However, he will be a hot commodity among 3-4 defenses this offseason because of his ability to clog rushing lanes.
Steve Gregory: $1.2 million (estimated)
Gregory filled in for an injured Bob Sanders last year at strong safety. His stats look alright, but he did not do anything particularly impressive on the field. He says that he feels like he's a legit starter in the league, but he doesn't look like one.
Nick Hardwick: $3 million (estimated)
Although Hardwick contemplated retirement at the beginning of the offseason, his 2011 performance showed that he is still a solid center. A $3 million average salary seems fair for Hardwick.
Update: ESPN is reporting the Chargers have re-signed C Nick Hardwick to a 3 year deal.
Tommie Harris: $1.2 million (estimated)
Harris will never be the same player he was in his prime with the Chicago Bears, but he showed in 2011 that he still has some productive years left in him. Teams looking to add defensive line depth for a low price will be knocking on Harris' door.
Jacob Hester: $1 million (estimated)
Hester is far from the typical strongman fullback that the NFL has gotten accustomed to. However, his all-around talent is what makes him stand out at the fullback position. His athletic ability from his running back days at LSU have translated to his NFL play.
Although he doesn't punish defenders with blocks, he is very quick on his feet and gets in the right position to make the proper blocks in order to spring his teammates for positive gains. Also, he is a very good special teams player.
Vincent Jackson: $10 million (estimated)
Jackson is one of the top free agents on the market, and teams are salivating at the thought of their respective quarterback throwing to the huge wide receiver. The Chargers will have a tough time keeping Jackson in San Diego.
Update: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed Jackson to a five-year, $55.5 million deal.
Randy McMichael: $925,000 (estimated)
McMichael was a serviceable second string tight end for the Chargers. He is definitely nearing the end of his career in the NFL, and he will only earn the veteran minimum with whatever team signs him.
Tony Moll: $825,000 (estimated)
Moll is as nondescript a player as you can get. He did little in the playing time he got with the Chargers, and if a team signs him, he will only receive the bare minimum a player with his playing experience can earn.
Scott Mruczkowski: $900,000 (estimated)
Mruczkowki is a very versatile lineman that has played center and guard for the Chargers. In the past, he has been a solid replacement for Hardwick when he's been hurt.
Bob Sanders: $825,000 (estimated)
There's no way a team will invest anything more than the minimum for this glass-man.
Mike Tolbert: $2.6 million (estimated)
The human bowling ball will make a lot of money this offseason due to his propensity to get into the end zone. It's too bad that his future touchdowns—and entertaining dances—will likely happen in a jersey other than the Chargers.
Restricted Free Agents
Brandyn Dombroski: $1.26 million (base tender, estimated)
Dombroski is a very versatile lineman who can play tackle or guard. He has helped the Chargers fill in several positions in a pinch. However, he isn't particularly good at any of the positions.
Kory Sperry: $1.26 million (base tender, estimated)
Sperry has done very little for the Chargers during his time in San Diego. He provided some decent blocking when he played, and he only caught one ball for 32 yards.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
Richard Goodman: $540,000 (estimated)
Goodman has developed into one of the better kick returners in the NFL. He was fourth in the NFL in yards per kick return in 2012 at 27.5 and also returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
Mike Windt: $540,000 (estimated)
Windt's name hardly comes up during telecasts, except for when he's tackling the opposing team's punt returner. That's exactly what you want from a long snapper, because that means he's made no mistakes.