2011 NFL Free Agency: 10 Players The San Diego Chargers Should Target
Don't you all just love the NFL offseason?
Yeah, neither do I.
In all seriousness though, the NFL offseason is one of those times of the year when the only people really interested are people like me (the writers) and people like you (football = crack?).
Well, let's pretend that the world is paying attention to the Chargers offseason plans like they determined the end of the world and continue on with my breakdowns of the San Diego Chargers' offseason needs and activities with some free agency buzz.
There are a lot of big names in the free agency market this year, and while the Chargers are never big players, there are still names on the list that San Diego could, and should, take a look at.
So, without further delay, here are 10 free agents that the San Diego Chargers would do well to target once free agency opens up.
Let me make this clear from the beginning: As long as the Chargers have Philip Rivers, there really should be no need for a backup in San Diego (except for the obligatory snaps that they have to take in the preseason).
That having been said though, the Chargers do nonetheless need a second-string quarterback.
With Billy Volek possibly on his way out of San Diego, the Chargers would be down to Legedu Naanee (who was listed as the third-string quarterback on a couple of inactive reports) behind Philip Rivers, and even Naanee is headed to free agency.
Drew Stanton had the chance to get solid playing time in the regular season this year with the Detroit Lions, and he didn't do too bad of a job.
He isn't going to compare to Billy Volek, but he isn't the kind of substitute that would lose games for San Diego.
Although this is a situation that has the potential to change, it now appears as though the Chargers will be saying goodbye to running back/return man Darren Sproles this year.
That means that they will be in need of a change-of-pace player to run with Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.
Enter Mike Hart.
Hart hasn't seen a whole lot of playing time as a Colt, which is unfortunate, because he seems like a really talented player to me.
He shows the ability to fit properly as a change-of-pace back, and he can be acquired at a comfortable price.
Yes, yes, yes, we all know that A.J. Smith never signs big-ticket free agents, but there's no reason why things can't change.
The Vikings may look to lock Sidney Rice up for a while, but, in the event that they don't, it's an opportunity that the Chargers cannot afford to overlook.
With Vincent Jackson out and Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee both looking for new contracts, the Chargers are going to need depth at the very least at wide receiver. What they really need, though, is a Vincent Jackson-caliber play maker, and Sidney Rice can be that guy.
Barring any more injury problems, Rice could be the difference maker that the Chargers needed for the first nine weeks of the season.
The tight end position is something that the Chargers have needed to address for a year or two now.
This is nothing against Antonio Gates, who is one of the best tight ends ever to play football, but rather about the lack of any depth.
San Diego was blessed with the help of Randy McMichael and Kris Wilson this year, but both are set to become free agents, and their future isn't certain, despite their performance.
If the Chargers do chose to replace one of both of them with another player, David Thomas would be the right guy.
He can block, he can catch and he can run. Thomas would fit well in the San Diego scheme, and he would allow Norv Turner and his staff to open up the playbook with some power run sets and double tight end schemes.
The Chargers seem relatively set at offensive guard right now, but, at the same time, it's hard to ignore the impact that injuries to Louis Vasquez and Kris Dielman have had on this team.
San Diego would be well served in bringing in a better replacement than Tyronne Green.
The Steelers may not be willing to let Trai Essex go if they can get him at the right price, but if he does enter the market, the Chargers should be at the top of the list for him.
He is a big, physical guy whose low is stop-gap type performance and whose high is solid play at right tackle.
Aside from that, bringing Trai Essex would mean a reunion of teammates: Essex played with Luis Castillo at Northwestern.
This is another unlikely scenario, but one that is absolutely worth consideration by the Chargers.
One of the big need areas for San Diego is defensive end. They have one side locked down with Luis Castillo, but they have been running the other defensive end spot in rotation, which has worked until now.
Both Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson are set to enter free agency.
While one or both may stay, it may be wiser to pursue a true difference-maker who the Chargers can rely on, and that would be Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins has been a forced to be reckoned with as a Green Bay Packer, and he would certainly continue that dominance as a Charger. Adding him to the defensive line would free up more room for outside linebackers like Antwan Applewhite and Shaun Phillips to operate.
Let's take a little more of a cost-effective approach to solving the same problem: Shaun Ellis.
At 33, Ellis probably doesn't have many years left in the tank, and the fact that the Jets have to deal with a large number of other free agents means that it is more than likely that he will be available, and at a fair price.
Despite his age, Ellis is still a disruptive force on the line (as evidenced by his performance against the New England Patriots), and his time in the aggressive scheme of Rex Ryan means that he is the kind of player who will really dig deep in the trenches and attack the line of scrimmage.
He wouldn't last long for the Chargers, but he would be able to lock up the opposite defensive end position until they can find a more permanent solution.
I wrote a whole article on this ordeal a little while back, but it bears repeating: If the Oakland Raiders do not attempt to bring Nnamdi Asomugha back with a mondo-deal like the one that was voided, the Chargers must make a run at him.
San Diego managed to get by this season with Antoine Cason on one side and Quentin Jammer on the other, but neither of the two are real playmakers, and Cason is still showing the inconsistency of a rookie, which does not bode well for how far removed from the draft he is.
Asomugha would make an immediate difference in the defensive backfield for the Chargers, and would give new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky a player to build around.
The strong safety position is a position of weakness in the Chargers' secondary, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.
Despite the fact that the Chargers drafted Darrell Stuckey last year to hopefully fill the spot, they really can't afford to simply wait around and hope that he develops.
Quintin Mikell, at the very least, will hold things down while the Chargers look for a permanent solution. That doesn't mean he can't make an impact, though.
Mikell is a physical defensive back and a good tackler who would complement Eric Weddle well.
He could also be brought on at a reasonable price, so the question really is: Why not?
Melvin Bullitt would be another great option for the Chargers at the safety position.
As he has been somewhat injury prone, the Colts may decide to let him walk, and it would be in the best interests of the Chargers to give him a chance. At worst, he gets hurt.
At best, though, Bullitt has a real presence in the backfield, and is a threat to make plays early and often.