Setting Odds for San Diego Chargers Signing Their Top 6 Free-Agent Targets
Depending on whom you ask, the San Diego Chargers will be over or just under the projected salary cap in 2014. Either way, there isn't a lot of space to work with, and that could make free agency difficult, to say the least.
Spotrac reports that San Diego is nearly $1 million over the cap, while OvertheCap.com insists the team is approximately $1 million under (h/t Erick Mack of Bleacher Report). For the second year in a row, general manager Tom Telesco will be forced to nickel and dime his way through free agency in an effort to keep the Chargers as competitive as they were last season.
Here are odds for the Chargers signing their top six free-agent targets, including a few in-house players who are scheduled to hit the market in March.
6. Jon Asamoah
The offensive line could not stay healthy over the course of 16 games and into the postseason in 2013. All five starters missed time at one point in the year, which forced the Chargers to mix and match backups from week to week.
Jon Asamoah had been a fairly consistent starter at guard for the Kansas City Chiefs until a calf injury sidelined him in 2013. In his absence, Geoff Schwartz got an opportunity to start for the Chiefs and may have won the team over, per Josh Michaels of FanSided.
Both Asamoah and Schwartz are free agents, and the likelihood of Kansas City keeping both is slim. Asamoah figures to be one of the better options available at his position, but shelling out the extra cash would be worth it for San Diego.
5. Richard Marshall
He's not the first choice that most fans would like to see back in a Chargers uniform, but Richard Marshall would be a decent option to keep in the secondary.
He had 57 tackles on a defense that struggled to slow down the passing game, but his nose for the ball was on display in 2013. The 29-year-old recovered one fumble during the regular season and two during the postseason.
If San Diego's plan is to draft a corner in the first round, then Marshall is the best bet to have around until that rookie learns the defense and is ready to start.
4. Darrell Stuckey
Darrell Stuckey's contributions on game day rarely get noticed by the casual fan, but what he adds as a special teams captain is difficult to replace.
The Chargers didn't allow a punt or kick return for a touchdown in 2013, which had been a problem the past couple of seasons. In addition to his special teams duties, he was also active in the secondary at safety and nickelback.
Expect the special teams gunner to draw interest from the same team that drafted him in 2010 and continue his career in San Diego.
3. Danario Alexander
Don't expect a long-term deal being offered to Danario Alexander, who underwent a second knee surgery to repair the same ACL he tore in August, per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.
The 25-year-old has had seven knee surgeries to date (five on the left, two on right), but the reward outweighs the risk in signing the receiver. He totaled 37 receptions, 658 yards and seven touchdowns in the final nine games of the 2012 season with the Chargers.
San Diego needs another receiver to complement Keenan Allen, and Alexander could fill that need if he's healthy.
2. Corey Graham
The list of corners who are set to hit the free-agent market in 2014 has more than a few marquee names, including Alterraun Verner, Brent Grimes, Vontae Davis, Aqib Talib, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Sam Shields and Walter Thurmond.
Most, if not all, of those players will come with a hefty price tag, so the Chargers may not be in a position to compete with teams with bigger checkbooks. Corey Graham is the best of the bunch with a reasonable asking price, after totaling 74 tackles and four interceptions in 2013 with the Baltimore Ravens.
1. Donald Butler
Contract talks between the Chargers and Donald Butler are already under way, per Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.
In three seasons with San Diego, he has racked up 257 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He's also collected an interception in each of the past three seasons and defended a career-high five passes in 2013. His strength is creating turnovers, which the Chargers can't afford to lose on a defense that didn't fare so well in that area last season.
Butler's return isn't needed just for the good of the team but also for the development of first-year linebacker Manti Te'o.