Free agency officially begins tomorrow and after last week’s post regarding which players the Chargers should look to re-sign/let go (here), it’s time to look at which players the Chargers should look to target in free agency.
Depending on reports, the Chargers are expected to have within the region of $20-$30 million in salary cap space for the 2012 season. Taking into account what happens with players like Jared Gaither and Vincent Jackson, this still leaves the team with a hefty amount to spend in free agency.
Now, without further ado, here are the top 10 players the Chargers should target in free agency.
The Chargers are faced with question marks at the tight end position. Antonio Gates is still one of the best players on the team and will surely go down as one of the greatest tight ends of all time.
However, Gates is currently the only established tight end on the current roster.
Brad Taylor was a rookie last season and failed to play in any games. Randy McMichael is an unrestricted free agent and isn’t likely to return next season. The only other tight end on the roster is Kory Sperry, who is a restricted free agent and has just five catches in two seasons with the team.
Bennett would be a decent free agent to bring in as the backup to Gates.
Roth started the first nine games of last season before he was placed on IR (injured reserve) with a concussion. He recorded 86 tackles in his last full season as a member of the Cleveland Browns in 2010.
Perfectly suited to play outside linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4 defense, Roth would add depth and experience to a young linebacking corp.
Roth would be a solid backup alongside Travis LaBoy. Shaun Phillips and Antwan Barnes would continue as the Chargers starting outside linebackers.
As a slot receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, Douglas has been used mostly as a role player during his career.
Whether Vincent Jackson returns to the team or not, the Chargers will almost certainly be in the market for a wide receiver in free agency. Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown are the only receivers on the roster that made any real contribution last season. Richard Goodman and Bryan Walters are used more on special teams and Patrick Crayton is expected to be released.
Douglas would provide some much-needed depth and would come in relatively cheap.
Once a dominant player for the Cleveland Browns, the former Pro Bowler is coming towards the end of his NFL career. He spent last season with the New Orleans Saints and played in all 16 games whilst recording 22 tackles.
With the expected release of Luis Castillo and the uncertainty surrounding Antonio Garay, the Chargers defensive line is left with a group of mostly younger players. Players like Cam Thomas and Vaughn Martin both showed great promise last season, with Martin having a career-high 47 tackles and Thomas having a career-high four sacks.
Add in last year’s first-round pick Corey Liuget and the Chargers look to have a promising defensive line for next season.
Even still, Rogers would be a great player to add veteran experience and depth to the defensive line rotation.
Depending on what happens with Mike Tolbert, the Chargers may look to free agency to find a replacement to back up Ryan Mathews. Choice finished last season as a member of the Buffalo Bills and will be looking to leave the Bills in search of more playing time with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller already on their roster.
Choice is a versatile player who would provide the Chargers with a solid contribution in his limited carries. His ability as a receiver out of the backfield could also be a factor.
He is a very good role player who could be a valuable addition to the Chargers offense.
The Chargers already have a Pro Bowl safety in Eric Weddle but are still looking to bring in a player alongside him. If Steve Gregory isn’t re-signed, I see Tom Zbikowski as a solid replacement.
Zbikowski has been a member of the Baltimore Ravens for his entire NFL career, serving mostly as a backup safety and special teams player.
The 26-year-old would provide depth to the Chargers secondary.
Despite many Chargers fans hoping that Nick Hardwick returns, I still think the team would be better off cutting ties with the 30-year-old veteran.
Satele has spent the last three seasons with the Oakland Raiders and has been a reliable player on their offensive line.
A solid run-blocker, Satele would help out Ryan Ryan Mathews in the running game.
Anyone who watched the Chargers secondary struggle last season will tell you that cornerback is a definite need for the team this offseason.
Veteran Quentin Jammer is definitely coming towards the end of his career and Antoine Cason is still improving as a cornerback. The Chargers drafted two cornerbacks in last year’s draft (Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright), with both having impressive rookie seasons.
Eric Wright would be the perfect player to pair with Cason. The 26-year-old five-year veteran is a solid contributor who would immediately improve the Chargers secondary.
In my opinion, the best thing the Chargers can do to replace Vincent Jackson (should he leave) would be to go after New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston.
Colston has been an extremely reliable player for the Saints offense over the years, recording 1000 receiving yards in every single season except for a injury-plagued 2008.
A.J. Smith, if you're reading this (I highly doubt he is), Colston would be the ideal replacement for Jackson. Just imagine what the Chargers offense could do next season with Rivers at quarterback, Mathews at running back, Colston at wide receiver and Gates at tight end.
Antwan Barnes was the team leader in sacks last season with a career-high 11 sacks. On the opposite side, veteran outside linebacker Shaun Phillips had a career-low 3.5 sacks. Adding Williams to the defense would surely make the Chargers a contender in the AFC once again.
A.J. Smith, if you're reading this (I think he’s reading now), Mario Williams should be the Chargers' No. 1 free-agent target this offseason.