The Collective Bargaining Agreement may still be shrouded in uncertainty, but progress has been enough to give us hopes for a real offseason this year, which includes something of a free agency period.
With the 2011 NFL draft officially in the dust, we just can't ignore this any more. Free agency is (will be) upon us, so it's time to start prepping ourselves for this yearly feeding frenzy.
The San Diego Chargers find themselves in a bit of a tight spot as far as free agency is concerned, considering that they could be sending 14 people to free agency (13 should the new CBA include provisions for a franchise tag, which would take Vincent Jackson off the market).
So, in the spirit of this magical time of year, let's run down the list of San Diego's free agents and see just who is going to make a return in blue, white and gold and who will be looking for work next year.
Unless the Seattle Seahawks are interested in poaching another backup from the San Diego Chargers, things are looking good for Billy Volek, who has made a reputation for himself as probably the best backup quarterback in the League in his five seasons with San Diego.
There was a lot of pre-draft talk that centered around Volek, namely that a team like the Cleveland Browns, or perhaps the Carolina Panthers—who needed a stop-gap starter—would pick him up. Now that most of those positions have been filled, though, it looks like Volek will be coming back to the Chargers.
This situation got a heck of a lot more convoluted yesterday when, out of nowhere, San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner told the San Diego Union Tribune that Sproles was on the top of the Chargers' list of free agents to keep.
That having been said, it looks like the Chargers have made all the preparations necessary to survive without the "Lightning Bug." The Chargers used one of their second-round picks on Marcus Gilchrist, who is projected to take over at least some of the return man duties. In addition, San Diego used one of their sixth-round picks to select UConn running back Jordan Todman, whose skill set would make him a very good replacement in the running back rotation.
So, despite what Norv Turner has said, things aren't looking good for Sproles' chances of staying. Unless he accepts a contract for $1-3 million per year, he will most likely be out the door.
Verdict: Free Agent
There's really no reason why the Chargers shouldn't bring back Randy McMichael. He played very well as a back up to Antonio Gates, and since the Chargers chose not to address tight end depth in the draft, their minds appear to be made up already.
Unless there is no franchise tag in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is fairly unlikely, Vincent Jackson will return to the Chargers in 2011, if only to serve as trade bait until Week 6.
Verdict: Franchise Tagged
Normally I would say no way right away here, but I have some hang-ups. Kelley Washington's chances will be hurt because of his age and his injury history, but he played very well on special teams last year, and that is something that the Chargers desperately need.
It's hard to weigh the pluses and minuses here, but ultimately, the pluses should win—especially since there really isn't a team out there that will be willing to offer him enough money to make him untouchable.
Scott Mruczkowski (or Mooch as he is affectionately referred to as) has been solid in a backup role for the Chargers for the last few years, and could potentially find himself in a starting position should San Diego decide to move away from right tackle Jeromey Clary.
If he accepts the right price, which I think he will, he will certainly remain a Charger.
Considering that David Binn hasn't indicated a desire to retire, Dearth should be gone. A team only needs one long snapper.
Verdict: Free Agent
Tyrone Carter was brought on mid-season as a special teams gunner. While he did have something of an impact, he didn't quite do as much as was expected. There's a possibility that he will stay, but judging by the fact that the Chargers stocked up on a couple of special teamers in the draft, I just don't see it happening.
Verdict: Free Agent
Bringing Kevin Burnett to San Diego is, arguably, one of the best moves of the A.J. Smith era. Burnett has really matured as a player within the Chargers system, and he is turning into a real impact player.
His minor injury history shouldn't get in the way of a new contract. Burnett should be a Charger for a long time to come.
Stephen Cooper may be getting old, but he is a long way from losing his usefulness.
Cooper is a clear leader on the Chargers defense, something that has to be valued high as San Diego switches defensive coordinators. He may not stick around long, but including him in the starting lineup makes a huge difference in the quality of the Chargers linebacking corps.
This is probably the hardest decision that the San Diego Chargers will face this offseason.
Brandon Siler has turned out to be a fairly solid player, especially in run support and on the goal line. However, as an overall player, I just don't think he has it.
His pass coverage skills are alright at best, and that's just not going to fly in a 3-4 base defense. If he wants to stay on with a small contract, it could totally happen. However, I see him getting a larger offer from another team. It may be time for San Diego to say goodbye to Brandon Siler.
Verdict: Free Agent
This is a tough one. The Chargers drafted Corey Liuget as the heir-apparent to Jacques Cesaire, who has never really been an impact player at the defensive end position.
That having been said, Cesaire has been a very reliable rotational player/back up player, which leads me to believe that a small chance remains that he will be retained by the Chargers.
The real difference-maker here is going to be how San Diego chooses to proceed with fellow free agent defensive end Travis Johnson.
With an age difference of one year, the ultimate decision is entirely down to value (i.e production versus price), a category that I think Jacques Cesaire has nailed down over Travis Johnson.
Well, I more or less answered this one on the last slide, but I suppose the argument needs a little fleshing out.
There is a small chance that both Jacques Cesaire and Travis Johnson will stay, but, should it come down to one or the other (which I think will happen), the logic will follow something like this:
For Travis Johnson:
- Acquired in a trade, which gives him more immediate value
- Has potential
Against Travis Johnson:
- One year age difference
- Less starting experience
- Numbers don't lie, doesn't produce like Cesaire
- Less familiarity with the Chargers
The negatives just seem to outweigh the positives too much.
Verdict: Free Agent
Personally, I'm a huge fan of Malcom Floyd. To me, he may not have all of the playmaking ability of Vincent Jackson, but what he lacks for in talents, he makes up for in a lack of drama.
Sure, the Chargers could not agree on a long term contract with him last year, leading to a one-year restricted free agent tender offer, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he is headed for the door.
Considering that San Diego would seriously be lacking in wide receiver depth and talent without him, I think Floyd gets the chance to stay with the Chargers.
I never really understood all the hate on Eric Weddle. He may not be a Top 5 or Top 10 safety in the League, but the guy is quietly consistent, and the continuity he provides in the Chargers' shifting backfield cannot be undervalued.
Some have speculated that Marcus Gilchrist was drafted as a player to move into the free safety position as a replacement to Weddle, but I wouldn't give much credence to those rumors. Gilchrist may take over the weak strong safety position, but Weddle's job is safe as far as I am concerned.