Reported Roster Cuts On The Horizon

Plenty of moves will be made this offseason by the brass of the Bolts to hopefully attempt to return this team to the postseason and make them viable Super Bowl contenders once again. Some of those transactions along the way may seem counterproductive to the ultimate goal, but inevitably several head-scratching moves that are made might not add up on the surface even though they are for the better of the team.

One such move is set to take place post-haste according to several sources around the team as left tackle Marcus McNeill and his $10 million salary for 2012 is thought to be on the way out by March 13 when the new league year officially begins. McNeill must get clearance from a team doctor by the third day of the league year or his 2012 salary is not guaranteed. Expectations are that doctors will not give McNeill the green light to resume football activities and he will likely be waived as a result.

The team had plenty of success in the latter stages of the season with Jared Gaither holding down the left side of the line, but he is set to become a free agent. If McNeill is cut loose as expected, Gaither should immediately become a top priority for General Manager A.J. Smith to get inked as soon as possible.

Another anticipated cap casualty may be defensive end Luis Castillo who was on the field for just three quarters of play in 2011. He suffered a fractured leg continuing his bad luck with the injury bug that has plagued him throughout his career dating back to his days at Northwestern. Castillo is due $4.975 million is 2012 and has a cap number of $6 million which seems all but guaranteed to be lessened before the year begins. If he is released, the team is on the hook for just $1.025 million of his total cap hit which would provide more financial flexibility to sign other high-priority guys to long-term deals.

The third possible man on the chopping block is veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes who signed a three-year contract last summer with the Bolts. The deal was in essence for only one year however as the team is on the hook for no guaranteed money to Spikes in 2012. Cutting him would free up $2.875 million and get the Bolts’ cap number even lower heading into free agency.

One player that the club hopes to retain but could lose due to health reasons is guard Kris Dielman whose scary concussion incident this past season is impossible to forget. Most believe that he is leaning toward a return to the field in 2012 despite the seizure that put him on injured reserve (IR) midway through 2011. Should he choose to give up the game, $5.5 million would be freed up as a result, but the team would gladly pony up the extra dough to have Dielman on the field in 2012.

Even though the team is just one of two clubs under the salary cap heading into the new league year, fans should expect a number of changes to the roster’s current configuration. The provisions set up in the new CBA allowed teams to be over the cap this offseason due to its uncertain nature, but if all of these cuts take place, the Bolts could be another $23 million under the number on top of their already $2.7 million in free space.

This should be a year more than any other that nothing is held back and every possible resource is poured into making this team a championship contender. Both GM Smith and Head Coach Norv Turner were close to being axed following this past season and if either one wants to gain any long-term job security, winning will need to be part of the equation in the upcoming year.

Where the majority of the money should be focused is on both lines of scrimmage where the Bolts need desperately to get deeper and tougher. A lack of strength and capable bodies showed through a year ago and greatly contributed to the team’s midseason swoon where they lost six consecutive games. More than any year in the past, this offseason needs to be about finding blockers on offense and blocker-occupiers on defense.

Now it’s your turn to weigh-in. What do you think about the names potentially on the chopping block for the Chargers? Should any of them be reconsidered or is it time to move on? Which in-house free agents do you place the most emphasis on? Will GM Smith finally place a true importance on getting tough on both lines of scrimmage or will the team be pushed around again in 2012 in the trenches? Please fill up the comments section below with your thoughts!

February 10, 2012

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