San Diego Chargers: Offseason Outlook
After a second consecutive season of missing the Postseason, the San Diego Chargers must look to improve this offseason if they are to have any ambitions of returning to the Playoffs in 2012. The Chargers offseason hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts with the recent announcement that Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman has decided to retire. Dielman’s retirement paired with the uncertainty surrounding the Chargers Free-Agency plans means that Chargers hopes of returning to the Playoffs next season are already looking uncertain.
In this post, I shall be looking at the outlook for the Chargers Off-season by analysing what the players the Chargers should look to re-sign/let go in Free Agency.
The Chargers are facing an abudence of question marks in free agency with 16 players who are unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents and two exclusive rights free agents. Also worth pointing out is the possible future of two starters. Left tackle Marcus McNeill is expected to be released along with veteran defensive end Luis Castillo. McNeill missed most of last season through injury and Castillo hasn’t been the same force he once was over the last few seasons. Both these players are expected to be released before Free Agency begins on March 13th.
Top 5 Players to re-sign
1. Jared Gaither- The number 1 player that the Chargers need to re-sign has got to be Jared Gaither. After being released by the Baltimore Ravens, the 6 ft 9 inch offensive tackle then signed with AFC West rivals Kansas City Chiefs just before the start of last season. He was subsequently released by the Chiefs after Week 12 and claimed off waivers by the Chargers.
Gaither went on to replace Marcus McNeill at left tackle and didn’t allow a single sack for the rest of the season. This offseason’s priority for the Chargers has got to be re-signing the 25-year-old to a long-term deal.
2. Antonio Garay- After a superb season in 2010, Garay followed that up with another impressive season in 2011. The veteran defensive lineman played in every game last season and recorded 57 tackles along with 2.5 sacks. Perfectly suited for the Chargers 3-4 defense, Garay was a dominant force in stopping the run for the Chargers last season.
Despite not being as effective when rushing the passer, Garay is still a valuable player on the defense. The Chargers should look to re-sign him as they wait on young players like Corey Liuget and Cam Thomas to make an impact.
3. Jacob Hester- Despite struggles early on in his career, Hester seems to have turned it around. He is currently the Chargers starting fullback has continued to improve with each passing season. He is another solid player who is a valuable member of the team despite not doing anything spectacular.
Hester has showed promise as a lead blocker for Ryan Mathews and is also an above average pass protector. The 26-year-old can also be relied on to step in on special teams where he has a reputation for forcing unnecessary turnovers.
4. Steve Gregory- Yet another solid player who went undrafted. Gregory has been a reliable player on the Chargers defense for the last few seasons. A versatile player who can play at both safety positions as well as cornerback, Gregory has also been a key contributor on special teams.
He recorded 67 tackles last season whilst starting in 13 games. The 29-year-old should be re-signed to provide leadership and reliability to the secondary.
5. Richard Goodman- Although not used on offense, Goodman is a crucial contributor on special teams. He served as the Chargers primary kick returner last season. In the Chargers final game of the season, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown and this was the first Chargers kickoff return for a touchdown since 2008.
This move would make sense for both sides. Goodman would continue as the starting kick returner and the Chargers wouldn’t have to pay over the top for his services.
Top 5 Players to let go
1. Vincent Jackson- Jackson will be the biggest name to leave this offseason. General Manager A.J. Smith recently stated that it is “highly unlikely” that the team will apply the franchise tag to Jackson. If this doesn’t happen, the Chargers can either offer him a long-term deal or allow him to leave.
All signs point to the latter with the team unwilling to offer him a big money deal. Jackson will be in high demand this offseason as many teams will be interested in the possibility of acquiring a top 10 wide receiver.
2. Mike Tolbert- This one is tough. Despite being one of the more popular players for the Chargers, I don’t expect him to be re-signed. Tolbert saw his carries reduced last season due to the play of Ryan Mathews and I think it makes sense for both sides if he leaves.
Tolbert will command too high a price in free agency and the Chargers will look to bring in someone like Tashard Choice or Steve Slaton to replace him. If the team can’t find a replacement in Free agency, they may make a move in the Draft for a player like LaMichael James or Robert Turbin.
3. Nick Hardwick- Hardwick has been the Chargers starting center ever since he was picked in the 3rd round of the 2004 Draft. With Kris Dielman retired, many Chargers fans are hoping that he’ll be re-signed to provide veteran leadership on the offensive line. I disagree.
He is clearly on the decline and Colin Baxter showed some promise during his limited playing time last season. Expect to see Hardwick allowed to leave and the team bring in a new center either via the Draft or Free agency.
4. Patrick Crayton- The 32-year-old veteran is no longer the player he once was with the Cowboys. After having a solid impact in his first season with the Chargers, Crayton failed to do the same last season. He started in just one game and could only manage 23 catches for 248 yards and 1 touchdown.
With the emergence of Vincent Brown, Crayton is no longer needed. The Chargers should look to let him leave as they attempt to establish a new wide receiving corp.
5. Bob Sanders- Bob Sanders just can’t seem to catch a break. After being released by the Indianapolis Colts, Sanders signed a one-year-deal with the Chargers last July. He was picked as the team’s starting strong safety and started the first two games of the season whilst recording 12 tackles.
However, injury struck again and he was placed on IR (Injured reserve) for the fourth season in a row. Don’t expect to see Sanders back with the team as he is just far too injury-prone.
So that’s my offseason outlook for the Chargers. Check back next week as I reveal my Free Agent targets for the Chargers.
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