While we all speculate and predict what happens to the future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, we should also speculate and predict what happens to some of the other San Diego stars such as linebacker Shawne Merriman, backup running back and special-teams weapon Darren Sproles, and defensive tackle Jamal Williams.
There's no doubt in anyone's mind that LaDainian is going to have a very long offseason. If he's traded, there's going to be a lot of talk, debates, and criticism everywhere.
Should AJ Smith—San Diego Chargers General Manager—decide to keep the running back, there STILL may be trouble regarding his age, productivity in the past two seasons and his consecutive playoff injuries.
Right now, one player should be the least of any Charger fan's worries.
Players like Shawne Merriman, who will be returning next season after missing all but week one of 2008, don't come cheap. It's bad enough that the Chargers are dealing with L.T. and his salary cap problems, but their defense this year has proven that they can't be successful without No. 56 pounding opposing quarterbacks.
Shawne Merriman's rookie contract expires following the 2009 season, and should the Chargers intend on keeping the 2006 sack leader, they should at least start some negotiating now.
You can be 50/50 and let players like Drew Brees, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles hit the free agent market, but there's absolutely no way you could possibly let someone like Merriman do it.
Pay the man the money he's worth, and allow yourself to guarantee your fans a successful 2009 defense!
...or maybe not?
Jamal Williams is one of, if not the, best defensive tackle in the National Football League. When it comes to stopping the run and getting that sneaky little QB running up the middle, Jamal Williams is the guy you can count on.
Jamal's dominance isn't just recent though. No, in fact, Jamal has been been doing this for about 10 years. That sounds about the veteran amount, and for a defensive lineman, that's still a way's off for someone to consider retirement.
But Jamal's getting up there in age and will turn 33 in April. Jamal has a good five or so years left in him; which is plenty of time to get yourself an undrafted or last round defensive tackle who's young and could learn a thing or two from the vet.
For the sake of the future, AJ should start thinking ahead now.
Now, last but certainly not least in what the Chargers need to do for 2009: pay Darren Sproles!
That's right, show him the money! This man showed in 2008 that he is a real weapon and should be treated that way. Don't allow him to slip through your hands because you can't afford to waste a mid-round draft pick on a backup running back who also returns kick as well as this guy does.
That was quick and simple, just re-sign the guy; save your mid-round draft pick for a defensive end or safety.
So that was the whole player aspect of it all. We've got our roster set, right?
The 2009 San Diego Chargers Mini-Mock Draft
Round 1. USC ILB, Rey Maualuga - Who hasn't picked this guy to be a San Diego Charger next year? He's someone that the Chargers are desperate for and would fit nicely between OLBs Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips.
The Bolts could use a bit more aggression on defense, and this guy could definitely bring some of it.
Round 3. SC OT, Jamon Meredith - He's big, he's intimidating and he can protect the passer. Though the Chargers should draft him as an OT, they should consider moving him to OG and take over Mike Goff's position.
He has experience on the left, and the right, so should the Chargers decide to flip Marcus McNeil to right tackle they could scrap my OG conversion idea and just make him the LT, allowing L.J.
Shelton to step in and take over the right guard position we'd also like to see.
And after those two draft picks, you start looking for your back-ups. The Chargers need a sufficient back-up at middle linebacker. Rey Maualuga will come in and play with top-tackler Stephen Cooper, but when one goes down are you gonna let Tim Dobbins or Matt Wilhem fill their shoes?
With whatever else the Chargers can get in the draft, they need an ILB, FS, DT.
What would really help with that is using players like DE Igor Olshanksy, SS Clinton Hart and QB Billy Volek as trade bait. Let's face it, the Chargers need a lot more help than they have right now.
One or two more extra draft picks would be helpful in making sure they can fill all the positions needed.
Oh, and you know how everyone thinks so-and-so can play a certain position better than someone else. Wanna know what I think?
Antoine Cason - CB to FS
I think that Antoine Cason, 2008 first round CB, is more suited to be a free safety than nickel back. He's not so bad when it comes to getting after the ball. I'm not saying Eric Weddle is a bad FS, it's just I had better intentions for him.
Eric Weddle - FS to SS
What to say about Eric Weddle. He finished 11th in the league in tackles this season, and led the Chargers in tackles. Outside of Quentin Jammer, Eric was the only guy doing anything in this secondary.
You may mention Clinton Hart, but I'd just remind you that he's the guy with he neck roll that all the quarterbacks look at first. He was good in goal line situations, but that was just about it. Move Weddle to strong safety, that side is much better suited for him.
Marcus McNeil - LT to RT
I mentioned this earlier, but Marcus McNeil would be much better at RT. Ever noticed how a linebacker runs through the offensive line and hits the running back behind the line and everyone screams at our full back, Jacob Hester?
Look at the replays and you'll notice how immediately, McNeil turns to the right and looks for a linebacker to come rushing at the guard. He's not good at covering Rivers' blind side, and since he's always looking to the right, make him block the right.
The 2009 season has so much potential to be that season Charger fans have all been waiting for, but with the L.T. drama and roster depth issues the Bolts are having, the Chargers are gonna have to work a lot harder than expected to finally bring a Super Bowl championship home.