Before we can talk about the NFL Draft, we need to talk about free agents. Fall in love with prospects all you want, but if the San Diego Chargers end up spending a good chunk of change to fill a roster hole with a free agent, they're not also going to draft a prospect at that same position.
So, let's start relatively simply....
Where are the roster needs?
You could argue, on a 4-12 team, that nobody's job should be safe. However, since the Chargers can't replace everyone, here's where I think they should be targeting their free agent search.
- Free Safety
- Strong Safety
- Defensive End
- Nose Tackle
- Right Tackle
- Wide Receiver
- Tight End
That list, which is in no particular order, is in direct relation to this one...
Who are the Chargers' free agents?
Not all of these guys will leave, but none of them are under contract for next season:
- Eric Weddle
- Antonio Gates
- Ladarius Green
- Malcom Floyd
- Joe Barksdale
- Patrick Robinson
- Kellen Clemens
- Johnnie Troutman
- Kendall Reyes
- Ricardo Mathews
- David Johnson
- Chris Hairston
- Jahleel Addae
- John Phillips
- Dontrelle Inman
- Cordarro Law
- Kenny Wiggins
and a handful of other guys that you've never heard of.
That's a lot of important players!
A plan for re-signings
First, Tom Telesco must decide which of the guys above he wants to sign back and work to do so.
Malcom Floyd will be retiring. My guess is that Antonio Gates comes back, but he doesn't have to. Eric Weddle will, seemingly, run screaming from any sort of offers from the Chargers.
If Gates retires, it's important to sign Ladarius Green. Beyond that, Hairston and Barksdale should be priorities, despite the issues with the offensive line this past season. However, a new offensive line coach likely means at least a few new pieces along the offensive line, and it makes sense to do it at places where you're not paying a former fit to sit on the bench.
Patrick Robinson was a revelation this past season, but he may get an opportunity to start elsewhere that won't be guaranteed for him in San Diego. Telesco should certainly work to sign him, but may be outbid.
Jahleel Addae will probably be brought back, because the front office seems to love him, but I wouldn't if I were them.
Making a big splash?
Unless I'm reading it wrong, the Chargers currently have about $30 million in cap space. That's plenty of room to sign at least one "big name" free agent.
Tomorrow, I'll let you know which of the big name free agents I'd have my eye on if I were the Chargers GM.