2011 Chargers Offseason: The Restricted Free Agents

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 12: Running back Mike Tolbert #35 of the San Diego Chargers crosses the goal line on an eight yard touchdown run against the Kansas City Chiefs at Qualcomm Stadium on December 12 2010 in San Diego California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

First up there are two players that we know with almost absolute certainty will be restricted free agents. So, let's cover them first.

Free Agent Age Analysis Conclusion
Antwan Applewhite 26 in Dec. I don't think it hurts to tender a contract to Applewhite. He's played hard for the Chargers, he's had his moments (good and bad) on special teams and the team can always low ball his tender offer to keep his salary low. Giving a player a low tender also means that another team may be tempted to sign them, but it's no big loss if that happens. I almost feel like it's a toss up between Antwan and Jyles Tucker. You probably can't keep both, but Tucker already has a contract. Low tender offer.
Mike Tolbert 26 in Nov. This is probably the biggest no-brainer this offseason. Or at least the fact that you need to tender Tolbert a contract is. How much you tender him is a matter of risk vs. miserliness. If you tender him at the highest level then he's basically assured of staying a Charger (I doubt any team is willing to give up a first round and a third round pick for him), but that also increases his impact on the payroll. That being said, the Chargers run game could suffer greatly were they to lose him. I say go the conservative and spendy route Offer highest tender

Now onto the players with uncertainty about their free agency. As I mentioned in my post on impending free agencies, the Collective Bargaining Agreement will determine whether or not these players will be restricted for unrestricted free agents. For some players the decision making will be different depending on their status, for others it doesn't matter that much.

Free Agent Age Analysis Conclusion
Antwan Barnes 27 in Oct. Barnes came in and was solid in pass rushing situations for the Chargers down the stretch. If he's a restricted free agent he's definitely worth tendering to some sort of offer since you don't want to let him go for free. If he's an unrestricted free agent, then you may have to either let him go or see if he liked it here and wants to come back on a reasonable one or two year deal. I don't want to pay him starter money to stay. Tender/Sign to reasonable deal
Jeromey Clary 28 in Nov. If he's a restricted free agent, then he gets the highest tender. No ifs, ands or buts about it. If he's an unrestricted free agent then it's a much tougher choice. Clary is never going to make any Pro Bowls and he's not going to sell many jerseys, but he proved that he could be a solid protector for Rivers last year. With so many other players needing contracts I'm not sure there would be enough money to give him the salary that an average RT deserves. I think you just have to see what the market and budget bear out. Tender/50-50 as to whether you sign him

Dante Hughes, Legedu Naanee, Ryan Neill, Paul Oliver, Brandon Siler, Eric Weddle, Malcom Floyd and Pat Watkins can all be found after the jump.

Free Agent Age Analysis Conclusion
Dante Hughes 26 in Aug. Hughes wasn't bad at the end of the year and probably deserves some sort of tender. As a free agent I only see him returning if he can be signed for the veterans minimum. Even then his spot on the roster wouldn't be assured. Low tender/Offer league minimum
Legedu Naanee 27 in Sept. As a restricted free agent I think you need to try to figure out what tender could be low enough that might entice someone else to sign Naanee and have the return be worthwhile. Ideally, you'd like to keep the WR corps together, but it's likely that someone will have to go. Dangling Naanee could possibly get you something while the team still keeps its top WRs. If Naanee goes to unrestricted free agency, then I think it's time to go in another direction. Strategic Tender/Do not offer contract
Ryan Neill 29 in Dec. Goodbye Neill. Nice knowing you. Do not offer contract
Paul Oliver 27 in Mar. I think Oliver is in the same boat as Naanee. If he's a restricted free agent, then it's a good depth move to tender him a contract. If he's unrestricted then you are looking and Steve Gregory and Darrell Stuckey to fill in and probably only want to sign Oliver if Weddle can't be retained. Strategic Tender/Do not offer contract
Brandon Siler 26 in Dec. Siler has proven to be an asset in goal line situations and has shown some value as a starter. Most likely the team will lose Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper or both and it would be wise to keep Siler in the fold. As an RFA I say he gets the highest tender. As an UFA then you try to find a reasonable deal, but not starter money. Tender/Sign to reasonable deal
Eric Weddle Turned 26 this month RFA for Weddle means highest tender offer from Chargers. Book it. Otherwise, he then becomes the #1 priority for the team to re-sign. I know many have issues with Weddle and point to some missed tackles as their reasoning. What I see is that Weddle makes a ton of tackles by being in the right place at the right time. They are not always big plays, but oftentimes they prevent big plays and go unnoticed. I don't think he's a Pro Bowler and I don't think he deserves the money that the top safeties get, but he does deserve a pretty hefty deal that will keep him in San Diego for a while. Tender/Sign to Market Value
Malcom Floyd 30 in Sept. Floyd got the highest tender last year, so there's no reason not to offer him that again. As an unrestricted free agent I think you have to consider giving Floyd a contract that's comparable to a #2 WR. The only problem with that is that usually some other team is desperate enough to give a #2 WR the money that a #1 WR should be making because they are so thin. It'll be interesting to see how that all plays out. I would be more gung ho about bringing Floyd back if he hadn't missed so much time in his first full season as a starter. Tender/Sign for #2 WR money
Pat Watkins 29 in Dec. I think you offer Watkins a low tender or you try to bring him back for close to what you signed him for. I mentioned in the unrestricted free agents about how Kelley Washington was a special teams asset and maybe deserved to be brought back for that. Same goes with Watkins. He played a huge part in patching the holes that were there on special teams. When he got hurt before the San Francisco game the punt and kick coverage units got noticeably worse. Tender/Sign to reasonable deal
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