After examining the defensive side of the ball last week for possible free agent acquisitions that the Bolts should consider making, it only seems fitting to switch sides and inspect the offense. Although this portion of the team is often called the strength of the club, an unbiased evaluation shows that the offense deserves just as much scrutiny as their defensive counterparts in many regards.
General Manager A.J. Smith may not be inclined to look at free agents carrying sizeable price tags very often, but in the make-or-break year that 2012 appears to be, the sense of urgency could force him to be a bit less frugal this offseason.
Protecting quarterback Philip Rivers has to be the number one concern for the Bolts moving forward as he was forced off of his spot far too many times during the 2011 campaign. With the possibility of guard Kris Dielman, center Nick Hardwick, and left tackle Marcus McNeill all at least seriously considering retirement, the offensive line will likely require a bit of an overhaul in the near-term. Thankfully there are several possibilities to fill these potential vacancies and GM Smith should take a hard look at all of them.
NATE LIVINGS of the Cincinnati Bengals will be available when free agency begins and although he isn’t at the tips of many tongues when it comes to the best interior linemen in the league, his solid play is commendable and could be a huge asset for the Bolts if added. He is very durable starting all 16 games for the second straight year with the Bengals and would help solidify what could become a somewhat shaky interior front line in San Diego.
DAN KOPPEN or TODD McCLURE would make a lot of sense for the Chargers should Hardwick decide to retire as each has a number of years in the league and could bring some sought-after leadership to the Bolts’ locker room. Koppen made the Pro Bowl once with the New England Patriots in 2007 and won two Super Bowls during his time there while McClure has been a solid player with a knack for staying healthy, missing just three games this past season for the first time since 2001 that he missed a start. Hardwick will be a free agent should he decide to return and if he wants to remain in the league the Bolts should be ready to give him a nice salary in order to keep him around for the remainder of his career.
JARED GAITHER will be a free agent when the offseason officially begins and he must be a priority for the team to retain. His performance after being claimed on waivers was outstanding and he proved that he has the tools necessary to be a consistent starter in the league.
MARIO MANNINGHAM is not a big name receiver, but he could provide that agile slot threat the team desperately needs to add a short to intermediate receiving game to the big-play offense. The Bolts banked on Buster Davis being that player once upon a time, but his failure left them without a consistent game-changer in the slot that could provide Rivers with yet another weapon to spread the ball around via the air.
BO SCAIFE or JACOB TAMME would provide interesting threats behind Antonio Gates at tight end, but the team’s priority has to be on keeping Randy McMichael if at all possible. Age has been catching up with Gates given his injury issues over the past few years and a developmental project would be ideal to groom behind him. In the meantime, an insurance policy is necessary should he again be shelved for a significant amount of time and any of these players would provide a solid spell in a pinch.
MIKE TOLBERT’s name should go without saying on this list of offensive priorities, but unfortunately the front office has yet to get him signed. With Ryan Mathews’ durability questions, Tolbert is a must-have in order to maintain balance on offense. His short-yardage ability is one of the best in the league and breaking the plain on the goal line is his specialty. GM Smith needs to put a lot of energy into re-signing Tolbert as soon as possible and preferably prior to free agency getting underway. We don’t want to see another Darren Sproles situation where a minimal amount of money loses the team a true impact player.
This is put up or shut up for many members of the Bolts both players and front office so the offseason could be very interesting. If you see any omissions or possible players on the open market that you feel the team should pursue on offense when the time comes, please fill up the comments sections below with your suggestions!
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