Yesterday, our favorite Silver Fox went and posted an article that he absolutely didn't copy the idea of from Wonko. In the article, he said that San Diego Chargers fans should probably prepare for the team to waive/release Left Tackle Marcus McNeill. In addition, he said that the team will try and restructure the contract of longtime DE Luis Castillo, might consider cutting veteran ILB Takeo Spikes and still don't know if Kris Dielman will ever play again.
If all of these things were to happen, A.J. Smith would be left with an awful lot of cash to use on the 2012 team (possibly his last season with the team). However, he'd also be opening up some large holes on his roster that he would need production from immediately. Namely, he would need to replace McNeill and Dielman by the beginning of the season while hoping that Jonas Mouton is about to become the next Donald Butler. A tall task, and one that will probably eat up most of that money.
The one thing that scenario would allow for is for Smith to shift money to different parts of his roster. If he could free up the $15 million or so from McNeill and Dielman coming off the books and replace them with a first-round OT (about $2 million) and Jared Gaither (let's say $5 million), moving Jeromey Clary to Guard, that would free up $8 million right there that could be moved to the defensive side of the ball to pick up a free agent pass-rusher.
That would be a good amount of change on the offensive line, with it going from McNeill / Dielman / Hardwick / Vasquez / Clary to something like Gaither / Vasquez / Hardwick / Clary / rookie, but if Gaither can perform as he did in 2011 the plan would work and free up plenty of money.
Another key is signing will be Nick Hardwick, but Acee estimated that through all of the cuts and restructures that the team could end up with about $23 million in leftover cash. That should be more than enough to bring back Hardwick, sign a pass-rusher, bring back Jacob Hester and either re-sign or replace Mike Tolbert. The team could even sign Vincent Jackson to a long-term deal that is friendlier for the 2012 cap to help Norv and A.J. make a run this season and keep their jobs.
After complaining yesterday that the team needed to make a decision on Darrell Stuckey, the Chargers announced Stuckey will be the starting Strong Safety in 2012. It seems they're making decisions now, not playing the "let's see how things look in training camp" card, and getting ready to reshape the team into a playoff contender in one offseason. It will take some heartbreak (like McNeill getting cut) and some risky decisions (like trusting Gaither to hold up at LT), but it looks like A.J. and Company are ready for it. I like it.