Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune published an article this morning in which he points out the Chargers' need to focus on their defensive line just as much as they're focusing on their offensive line, linebackers and receiving unit. We were aware that Antonio Garay is a free agent and might not be back with the team, but now it looks like Luis Castillo can be thought of in the same way.
Sources have confirmed the Chargers are planning to release Luis Castillo, who as started 79 games at left defensive end since being the 28th overall pick in 2005. Castillo has been paid $27.3 million over the past four seasons as part of a contract extension signed before the 2008 season. He as three years remaining on that deal, but he is due a $1 million signing bonus next month and a $3.9 million salary.
Castillo suffered a leg fracture in the 2011 season opener and did not play again. The Chargers are keeping open the option of re-signing him on a lesser deal after he tests the free agent market.
Corey Liuget, Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas are three young players that could make for (at the very least) an average defensive line. That's the backup plan if Garay and Castillo get offers elsewhere that prove too rich for the Chargers to match.
So, not only is this a "make or break" year for Norv Turner and A.J. Smith, but there is seemingly no part of this team that isn't facing the possibility of overhaul this offseason. One thing is for sure, Turner and Smith are "trimming the fat" off of this roster for a reason. They're going to have an awful lot of money to work with, a draft full of cheap rookies (thank you, rookie wage scale) and not a ton of interest in working out extensions for players already under contract.
To me, this spells out the Chargers being more aggressive in free agency (which, yes, includes Vincent Jackson) than they've ever been under A.J. Smith.