What The End Of The Lockout Means To The Bolts

Unlike many offseasons past, this 2011 version is uncharted territory for the Chargers organization as well as the vast majority of the NFL. The Bolts’ front office in particular will have plenty of challenges facing them over the course of the next few weeks as they go into hyper-speed attempting to fully assemble a 53-man roster in an extremely narrow timeframe. This accelerated process will fully test every member of the team’s personnel department as they look to improve on the team’s disappointing 9-7 record a year ago and find a winning formula for 2011.

While General Manager A.J. Smith attempts to prioritize his list of free agents to be that he wishes to re-sign in San Diego, one such player has made his thoughts known that he would like to stay a Charger. Safety Eric Weddle certainly wants to be given fair market value after a stellar year in 2010 with 95 tackles, but he wants that offer to be from the Bolts. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Weddle said: “My (Chargers) teammates will be my best buds forever. I've always said I want to be back in San Diego. We'll see if it's both ways. I think we know how they feel. But you never know until it's done. I'm sure something will get done quickly if it gets done (with the Charger). If not, I'll see what's out there. I think a lot of teams out there will be interested in me. It will be an exciting few days, for sure."

Fans are already aware of the fact that Weddle will be targeted by several teams looking for safety help across the league. The organization needs to be quick in letting Weddle know that he is a key cog in their defense that they place a great deal of value in by getting him a solid multi-year deal on the table as soon as possible. A true free-for-all is likely to ensue when the league opens for business again in the imminent future. Such a scenario only makes timing all the more important when it comes to retaining valuable pieces of a team’s roster.

The daunting task of signing several players within less than a week’s time doesn’t seem to be worrying the GM Smith one bit as evidenced by his comments on the Chargers’ team website last week. According to Smith, the ideology is simple as he said: “We have a lot of our own players that we would like to keep. As soon as this thing is resolved, we’re going to go right back to our philosophy, which is (to sign) what’s now a log-jam of a lot of our own Chargers. We’ve got a great budget and plan thanks to (Chargers President-CEO) Dean Spanos’ continued support and direction to build a championship team.” Smith’s confidence certainly hasn’t faded one bit during this time off either as he concluded his declaration simply saying: “When it’s time to go, I can promise you, we’re not going to gather and have a meeting. We’ve had all our meetings. We’ll be ready to go instantly. In five minutes we’ll be on those phones and it’ll be on big-time.”

Although everyone is ready to get back to normal in the NFL realm, Vincent Jackson’s issues with feeling that he was not justly compensated as a de facto franchise player during the 2010 campaign were thought to be a potential problem in getting a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ratified. Fortunately it seems as though both he and New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins have backed down from their demands and taken the high road in favor of the greater good. That really is the best resolution for both parties as the Chargers will have their top receiving threat on the outside for the coming year while Jackson won’t forever be known as the player who caused the lockout to go on any longer than necessary. Such a reputation would be hard to live down amongst his NFL brethren and would likely jeopardize his chance at being paid big money next offseason when he finally becomes a free agent.

Even though Jackson isn’t yet a free agent, the team still has plenty of issues to resolve at that position heading into the 2011 league year. There is still a great deal of momentum behind the Steve Smith (of the Carolina Panthers) to the Chargers via trade rumor at some point during this shortened offseason. Smith is reportedly interested in either the Bolts or the Baltimore Ravens as a potential landing spot in his attempted escape from the doldrums of Carolina. Depth at wide receiver was a huge issue last year with injuries to Malcom Floyd and Buster Davis (as usual) during the season coupled with V Jack’s lengthy holdout. Adding depth is never a bad thing at a skill position on a team with Philip Rivers under center, but don’t look for the Bolts to give up much in exchange for the 32 year old pass catcher. The teams still has high hopes of re-signing Malcom Floyd to a multi-year deal when it is made possible as well so there will be plenty of talk about Rivers’ targets during this shortened offseason period.

Even that buzz around the wideout position doesn’t complete the untold story of the Bolts’ offseason believe it or not with the idea of re-signing running back Darren Sproles still in the back of everyone’s mind around San Diego. Despite the fact that he is an elite complementary back at best, Sproles is still likely to garner a significant amount of attention on the free agent market should he get to that point. The St. Louis Rams and Cincinnati Bengals are already thought to be interested and it wouldn’t be wise to get into a bidding war for a player that didn’t exactly prove his worth during the previous year with the Chargers.

Thankfully it seems that the answers to each and every one of these questions is finally getting near as the two sides seem likely to finalize a deal this week. It’s going to be a hectic time for front offices around the league and an even more stressful exercise for fans waiting to see if their teams can keep a hold of their respective favorite players. Buckle up because this is bound to be a bumpy ride for all 32 franchises over the next week or two.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think it is important for the Chargers to keep Eric Weddle or can they afford to lose him as long as they sign a decent replacement at safety? Who is more important to the Bolts’ offense in 2011; Malcom Floyd or Darren Sproles? Which player is more likely to still be in San Diego for the coming year? Do you see Vincent Jackson being a Charger for the entire 2011 season or do you think he will be dealt before the trade deadline? What sort of curveball moves do you predict we will see from GM A.J. Smith during this small window of negotiating time with free agents? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!

July 25, 2011

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