This is more a companion piece to this article than a standalone. Since that article leveled criticism towards AJ Smith and the growing Chargers "wishlists" for personnel, I figured I'd pair the concrete facts and figures with a bit more obscure theorycrafting.
I know all of these cannot hope to be addressed in one offseason, but it should comprise a solid list to choose from for what to look for/address. My apologies in advance if players named from other teams have already re-upped at this point, as I am going off a list of 2010 free agents that I believe was posted at the start of the season.
1. Re-sign Sproles as a good role-player pay or let him go: I think he is a great part of the team; however, the early goings of this season have proven that even without the issue of a guy his size holding up physically, he is more a sparkplug than a full-time starter. Granted, there’s been a bit too much running him straight up the gut, but either way, he’s not a $6.6 million guy.
2. LT gets committee RB pay or gets cut: The reality is a pay cut of that size is highly unlikely to be accepted, so despite what he has done for the team over the years, it’d be cold but smart to cut their losses on him.
3. Snag a RB in the draft: What kind depends on the events surrounding Nos. 1 and 2. Assuming the probably scenario (Sproles resigned, LT let go) spend a third -fourth round pick on a bigger bruiser type of RB that take a good amount of snaps, and punch through those goal line/3rd-and-2 type situations.
4. Re-sign Vincent Jackson: Goes without saying. This guy has safely emerged as the Chargers' No. 1 receiver. He is young and still on the rise.
5. No more Chris Chambers: He is an underperforming but serviceable No. 2 (assuming you have a TE like Gates), however he’s making $5.7 million this year, you need more than 30-something catches for 350ish yards. Also looking for a job is Buster Davis.
6. Replace Chris Chambers with a bigger sure-handed possession receiver: A great skill guy is always nice, but rather than dumping money on a marquee name, get more of a blue-collar Ed McCaffery type of guy who would be the perfect complement.
If the list I looked up is accurate, Kevin Walter of Houston is a great choice that should be a solid workmanlike companion receiver without breaking the bank. Steve Breaston might take a little more $$ and is restricted but would still be a good choice that won’t command No. 1 pay. For now, we’ll hope Byrd comes back enough to pair with Floyd as depth guys.
7. Make Hester a depth guy: Or cut him and sign a blue-collar FB like Justin Griffiths, who is already experienced. Griffiths is a solid blocker but not going to turn heads with his own carries/catches. Again, this speaks to addressing a need on a budget. I don’t think FB is a great position to address via the draft in the spread offense era of college football.
8. Re-sign McNeil and find a workman starter who is solid but not a marquee name: This will allow Clary to drop to being a depth guy, give some injury insurance and shore up the starting line. This could be a mid-tier free agent or a second-third rounder in the draft.
As 8a. I’d say float a deep pick, five through seven, on one more depth lineman; if he pans out great, if not, oh well, it’s a late pick anyway.
9. Allow Merriman to go via free-agency, pin your hopes on English: You can’t address everything. Merriman’s money can go to other higher-need spots. If English can develop into a solid eight-10 sack guy, I’m happy, anything more is a bonus.
10. First rounder: Sorry Ellison, but my “I wish” pick is Taylor Mays. A roving force like that can shore up run support and pass defense.
If a marquee safety isn’t available option B is the best available D-lineman (again should we have the option for "ideally" we grab an oversized DE that can fill in spot duty in the middle or tie up blockers as an end. Should Jamal be finished that No. 1 plays rotation duty with project-guy Martin).
11. With then LT/Sproles/Chambers/Merriman budget cuts your one big free agent is the contrast to No. 10. Target a good safety if you draft D-line in round one, a D-lineman if you went the safety route. Some ideas: Antoine Bethea, Richard Seymour, Ryan Picket. A Wilfork/Hampton would be cost prohibitive.
12. Due to budget allocations the leery spot is going to be CB. When drafting day-one CB’s gives you are pretty much standing at a roulette wheel and good free agents can get really pricey. Right now we are banking on Antoine Cason earning the starter’s spot and, with support from improvements along the D-line and Safety, provides ample coverage.
Cromartie goes in for nickel or dime packages where his poor coverage but ballhawking athleticism can go to better use by jumping in front of the ball in obvious pass situations.
13. Our last piece of the wish list is not likely in the budget if one-12 are followed, but is more a "if you can" option or one should they be unable invest in a safety or d-lineman, that’s a strong middle linebacker like DeMeco Ryans (Houston) who is a bona-fide starter rather then a situation/rotation guy earning extra playing time by a lack of any else to rotate (a la Burnett).
While it is easy to play couch-coach or GM, I think this is a relatively solid plan set down allowing for some give and take. This builds a team with:
a serviceable O-line even if someone goes down
a more solid D-line
improved short yardage running
a possession No. 2 wideout compliment Jackson an already solid one, three, four set of wideouts (Gates and Sproles make a No. 5 wideout unnecessary except for depth)
our first truly solid safety since Harrison was let go (yeah yeah PED’s and fines, but look at what’s been there since him)
Running with the risk factors of:
Not addressing the CB position
Sacrificing OL B depth
No real "it" guy at the RB position
It ain’t perfect but it seems the best cost-benefit way to try and patch up this team’s issues. Unfortunately, the AJ Smith philosophy will never allow this to come to pass, as the best we can hope for outside the draft is re-signing Jackson/McNeil, maybe adding one or two good backup/marginal starters and trying to get the next ‘find’ in mid rounds.
Ah well, a guy can dream.