San Diego Chargers Free Agency Recap

Padraig O' Halloran Correspondent IMarch 18, 2012

San Diego Chargers Free Agency Recap

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    It's certainly been a busy week of business in the NFL.

    Peyton Manning will make his decision on which team to play for by Tuesday. According to reports, he is expected to sign with either the Tennessee Titans or the Denver Broncos. The San Francisco 49ers are reported to have an outside chance of signing the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

    Calvin Johnson (Megatron) signed a seven-year, $132 million contract extension with the Detroit Lions, thus becoming the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL. This exceeds the eight-year, $120 million contract extension that Larry Fitzgerald signed with the Arizona Cardinals prior to the start of last season.

    One final headline from the first week of free agency: The Chargers re-signed left tackle Jared Gaither to a four-year contract, and former Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson signed a five-year, $55.55 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    In case anyone forgot, here is a quick recap of a busy free-agency period for the San Diego Chargers.

Players In

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    Robert Meachem: Wide Receiver

    Overview: With Vincent Jackson signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chargers quickly found a replacement in free agency. Meachem had at least 40 catches in each of the last three seasons as the No. 2/3 receiver in the New Orleans Saints high-powered offense. He will be expected to start alongside Malcom Floyd in the Chargers offense.

    Grade: B

    He should fit in well in the Chargers offense and will be a reliable deep threat for Rivers. I’m expecting 50-plus catches, 800-plus yards and 10 touchdowns for Meachem next season.

     

    Jarret Johnson: Outside Linebacker

    Overview: Johnson is a veteran outside linebacker who has played with the Baltimore Ravens for his entire NFL career. He is stout against the run and should start opposite Shaun Phillips. He signed a four-year deal and will be 31 years old when the season starts.

    Grade: C

    A solid move to bring in another veteran linebacker in Johnson, but don’t expect him to see him rushing the passer much on third down.

     

    Le’Ron McClain: Fullback

    Overview: McClain is one of the NFL’s best fullbacks and will serve as Ryan Mathews' lead blocker next season. A former Pro Bowler with the Baltimore Ravens, he spent the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. McClain should start instead of Jacob Hester and can also be used as a running back on short yardage situations.

    Grade: A

    A great move to bring in one of the elite fullbacks in the NFL. McClain is a great replacement for Tolbert, who is expected to leave in free agency.

Players In

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    Eddie Royal: Wide Receiver

    Overview: Royal has been highly inconsistent in his four seasons with the Denver Broncos. He had just 19 catches last season and hasn’t yet returned to the form he showed in his rookie season, in which he had 980 receiving yards. He will start the season as the Chargers' No. 4 receiver on the depth chart and can also be used in the return game.

    Grade: D

    I just can’t see Royal fitting in well with the Chargers offense and would have preferred to see the team draft a No. 4 receiver instead.

     

    Charlie Whitehurst: Quarterback

    Overview: I guess the team felt it was time to bring back former third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst left the Chargers in 2010 after he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, he had a disappointing spell in Seattle and now returns to more familiar surroundings in San Diego.

    Grade: D

    A surprising move to bring Whitehurst back into the fold. He will resume his Chargers career as the back-up quarterback after the unexpected release of long standing backup Billy Volek.

     

    Atari Bigby: Safety

    Overview: After Steve Gregory signed with the New England Patriots, the Chargers decided to bring in Bigby to replace him in the secondary. Bigby played 15 games last season with the Seattle Seahawks, serving mostly as a back-up safety. The 30-year-old veteran should compete with for a starting spot alongside Eric Weddle.

    Grade: D

    When healthy, Bigby could be a solid contributor to the secondary, but it remains to be seen how many games he will play in. He hasn’t completed a full season since 2007 and is coming towards the end of his career.

Players Out

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    Vincent Jackson: Signed with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Overview: A mutual split works out best for both the Chargers and Jackson. The Chargers saved salary cap space to bring in other free agents and Jackson got the big contract he was looking for from the Bucs. We haven’t seen the last of V.J. however as the Chargers will be playing the Buccaneers in the regular season.

    Grade: A

    Jackson will play with promising quarterback Josh Freeman who seemed to struggle at times last season.

Players Out

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    Steve Gregory: Signed with New England Patriots

    Overview: Gregory was a solid player during his time with the Chargers and provided great versatility to the secondary. He should fit in well in New England and give them a free safety to pair with Patrick Chung. I would have preferred to have seen Gregory re-signed, especially since Atari Bigby was signed as his replacement.

    Grade: D

    Gregory will play alongside Patrick Chung in the Patriots secondary.

Re-Signed

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    Jared Gaither, left tackle.

    Contract: Four-year deal

     

    Nick Hardwick, center.

    Contract: Three-year deal

     

    Kory Sperry, tight end.

    Contract: One-year deal

     

    Randy McMichael,tight end.

    Contract: Two-Year deal

Released

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    Marcus McNeill, left tackle.

    Possible Teams: Detroit Lions or Buffalo Bills

     

    Luis Castillo

    Possible Teams: Kansas City Chiefs or San Francisco 49ers


    Bryan Walters, wide receiver

    Possible Teams: Denver Broncos or Jacksonville Jaguars

     

    Dante Hughes, cornerback

    Possible Teams: Chicago Bears or Dallas Cowboys

     

    Everette Brown, outside linebacker

    Possible Teams: Baltimore Ravens or New England Patriots

     

    Nate Triplett, middle linebacker

    Possible Teams: Minnesota Vikings or Oakland Raiders

     

    Billy Volek, quarterback

    Possible Teams: New York Jets or Indianapolis Colts

Tendered

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    Brandon Dombrowski, offensive tackle

    Overview: Dombrowski will continue his role as a backup offensive lineman providing depth at tackle.

     

    Richard Goodman, wide receiver

    Overview: Goodman will continue as the kick returner with newly signed Eddie Royal expected to be the punt returner.

    Mike Windt, long snapper

    Overview: Windt will continue to serve as the Chargers long snapper.

Free Agent Targets

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    Tashard Choice, running back

    Overview: Still available but is unlikely to be pursued due to the signing of Le’Ron McClain.

     

    Shaun Rogers, defensive tackle

    Overview: Still available but may command to high a price for the Chargers.

     

    Harry Douglas, wide receiver

    Overview: Still available but won’t be pursued due to signings of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal.

     

    Matt Roth, outside linebacker

    Overview: Still available but won’t be pursued due to the signing of Jarret Johnson.

     

    Martellus Bennett, tight end

    Overview: Signed with New York Giants (one-year deal worth $2.5 million).

Free Agent Targets

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    Mario Williams, defensive end/outside linebacker

    Overview: Signed with Buffalo Bills (six-year deal worth $100 million).

     

    Marques Colston, wide receiver

    Overview: Re-signed with New Orleans Saints (five-year deal worth $40 million).

     

    Eric Wright, cornerback

    Overview: Signed with Tampa Bay Buccaneers (five-year deal worth $37.5 million).

     

    Samson Satele, center

    Overview: Still available but won’t be pursued due to the re-signing of Nick Hardwick.

    Tom Zbikowski, safety

    Overview: Signed with Indianapolis Colts (three-year deal with terms of contract undisclosed).

And Finally...

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    So that’s my recap of the first week of free agency. Check back next week as I reveal my draft targets for the Chargers.

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    Thanks for reading.