(Editor's Note: this FanPost was frontpaged by John Gennaro)
This off season and this draft are going to be more interesting and exciting than we are used to in recent years for many reasons. Last year there really WASN'T an off season besides the draft. With Dielman retiring, and the key FA's we have that will most likely be gone will cause two things: 1) Cap Space Galore 2) Some holes to fill some of which are starting roles. And last but certainly not least, it is do or die for the man calling the shots AJ Smith.
Since free agency starts before the draft, lets start there.
1) Vincent Jackson: VJ has already said he would prefer to stay in SD with Rivers, so lets pay him a REASONABLE amount of money. $10-11 Million a year I'm thinking would do the trick and we will have the cap space for it. I think Jackson has done enough to show us all that he has matured off the field and if we want added insurance I am sure some sort of clause could be worked in to his contract to deal with that. I think he would be more than willing to accept that kind of contract, and unless AJ decides to try and low-ball him with $8Mil a year he will be back.
2) Nick Hardwick: With Dielman retiring (and in my opinion rightly so) we need to keep Hardwick. He has been a good C for us and with losing the whole starting left side of our line from the beginning of last season, losing the "General" of the offensive line as well would set us back too far to recover from. Enough said on that.
3) Jared Gaither: Gaither needs to be kept. He has had an up and down career however he was as close to flawless for us last season as I have seen an OT in Bolts perform. If he stays healthy and is as consistent as he was this season he will be a top 5 LT in the NFL.
4) Mike Tolbert: I am torn on Tolbert. He is a bowling ball, he is good for at least one momentum changing run about every other game, he is great on special teams....But with how much he will likely be offered from other teams, I think there are plenty of guys who can replace him for cheaper. If we draft a "Sproles type" RB in the draft, and add him to our "stable" with Mathews, Brinkley, and Summers we will be fine. So if we aren't getting into a bidding war re-sign him, but the second that bidding war starts, thanks for the end-zone dances Tolbert and good luck with the rest of your career.
5) Antonio Garay: Same strategy as Tolbert. Offer him a fair price, but if other teams start offering more and he doesnt like our number, let him walk. The reason I say this, which I will explain more later, is I think we need someone more consistently dominant either through FA or by drafting a future star in Dontari Poe.
6) Jacob Hester: We should re-sign him and he will not be too expensive. He is a beast on special teams and is an effective FB. However I do think we need a wrecking ball of a blocker, like Emil Igwenagu (6'1 250lbs) if he drops to round 7 or is a UDFA.
7) Tommie Harris, Randy McMichael: These are the last two I will specifically point out. I think they both should be retained. Neither will be that expensive and both were effective and reliable for us last year. I think McMichael can help Gates either finish teaching Kory Sperry to be our next big thing or if we draft a new TE show him the ropes. As for Harris, with the way injuries go for the Chargers, we need all the quality depth we can get in the trenches.
Who should be let go:
1) Steve Gregory: He already said he wants to try free agency and thinks he is a starter. He looks tiny on the field, isn't a punishing hitter, and just isn't a very good pairing for Weddle
2) Patrick Crayton: By bringing back Jackson and having Floyd, Brown as the three starters Crayton can be let go, as we should target a quick, game changing, slot receiver instead.
3) Marcus McNeill: He has been very good for us when he isn't injured. However with how much cap space we can clear by waiving him (around $10 Million according to Kevin Acee) and the way his health has been, and will continue to deteriorate it is the best time for us to thank him for his services and part ways.
4) Luis Castillo: I have been torn on this with Castillo but with all of the rumors I am seeing that he will be gone I added him. He has been consistent and very underrated due to the fact that his impact has been eating up blockers rather than making sacks and TFL. However he is due a healthy amount of money this season, the big injury last season, the more than adequate play of Vaughn Martin, and the depth of great DL talent in this draft, it may be time to move on.
5) All other UFA: Most of them are on the wrong side of 30 and with as active as the Chargers should be in FA and the draft, they can all be replaced as all of them are back ups and any new people we bring in will have a full off season to learn the playbook.
Next Post: Free Agents to Target!