Coming into the 2013 free agency period, the San Diego Chargers have a lot of needs. Chief among them is a lack of talent along the offensive line. Fortunately there is a strong group of tackles available, and it's shaping up to be a much better class than last year. This only helps the Chargers, with a dearth of talented pass blockers serving to drive down prices.
Branden Albert- Kansas City Chiefs: Branden is coming off a great season in 2012, surrendering only one sack despite his team constantly being down and under pressure. He did suffer from lower back problems throughout the season, but described the injury as muscular in nature. A full offseason of rest and rehab would likely be all the treatment necessary. He would be a great pick up if signed, anchoring the left side of the line for years. The hope is that the Chiefs tag Bowe and let Albert walk, though the situation is described as 'fluid.' John Dorsey has stated that if the Chiefs are able to get a long term deal done with Bowe, they have no qualms about applying the tag to Albert. Fortunately, it looks like the two sides are far apart, making it likely Albert hits Free Agency.
Andre Smith- Cincinnati Bengals: After grading out as the best Right Tackle in the league in 2012, and a top five tackle overall, Smith is searching for a big pay day. It's known that the Bengals will not be using the tag on Smith, and that he'd like to be paid around 9 million a year. While Smith is a very good Right Tackle, the Chargers already have a serviceable, if unspectacular, starter on that side of the line. I think he deserves a large contract, and will probably get one, but I doubt it will be in San Diego. He's a luxury we can't afford, and would take up cap space that would be better spent on other needs.
Sam Baker- Atlanta Falcons: Despite being drafted in 2008, the former first round pick has already had three surgeries on his back. In 2012 he appeared to turn a corner, contributing to an Atalanta offensive line that ranked among the best in the NFL. He surrendered a career-low 3.5 sacks, playing in every game for only the second time in his career. With the release of several veteran players, Atlanta seems poised to re-sign Baker. However, nothing's a sure thing, and if Baker tests Free Agency, he could be an interesting pick up for the Chargers. He'd likely come cheaper than Branden Albert, and if his back problems are really behind him, would be a productive starter.
Jake Long- Miami Dolphins: After looking dominant early in his career, the former number one overall pick has seen his play slip as of late. After ranking among the best Left Tackles in the league his first three years, Long dropped to 14th in 2011, and 25th in 2012. Despite this, Long has announced that he intends to seek top money, somewhere in the range of Joe Thomas' contract. While he has the potential to return to elite form, I don't think a team should pay 11 million a year for potential.