Depth is the magic word around Chargers Park this offseason and the Bolts should be in pursuit of it this offseason. Last year’s depleted lineup down the stretch showed just how quickly a rash of injuries can catch up to any squad so insulating the 2012 team with some solid, capable veterans is a must.
Team doctors will be assessing left tackle Marcus McNeill Tuesday and are expected to raise red flags about his health paving the way for the team to release him. Scheduled to count $10.5 million against the cap in 2012, cutting McNeill wouldn’t save that entire amount for the Bolts, but after subtracting the $1.2 million in bonuses that the tackle has already received for his current contract, the club would shave $9.3 million from their bottom line in the coming year with the move.
Jared Gaither was a depth player for the Bolts in 2011, but this coming year will likely be spent as a starter. The Chargers still need to work out a deal with him in order to make that a reality, but after the deed is done with McNeill, look for General Manager A.J. Smith to really amp up the deal talk with Gaither.
Offensive line may not be the most hip water cooler conversation starter, but it is the area of most concern for San Diego given last season’s results. Re-signing center Nick Hardwick is a must at this point as the team continues to groom Colin Baxter who is not yet ready for a full-time role as a starter.
The guard position must be addressed as well with Kris Dielman’s retirement, but fortunately there is a similarly nasty player available in Ben Grubbs. It is likely that Grubbs warrants mid to upper level money among the guard market this offseason, but his ability to block through the whistle and really road-grade in the running game would be a huge addition to this Chargers’ roster.
The team has already added linebacker Demorrio Williams to the roster after the Kansas City Chiefs cut him last week. More linebackers are likely to be targets for the Bolts from the obvious big fish Mario Williams to the less mentioned Ahmad Brooks who found new life with the San Francisco 49ers last season. Adding more capable bodies on defense is a must for a team that really struggled to get to the quarterback or turn opponents over during the 2011 season.
Defensive end is also a spot on the defense that needs more depth and a veteran like Matt Roth from the Miami Dolphins or Cory Redding from the Baltimore Ravens could help solidify a shaky area for the Bolts. Corey Liuget looked great in his rookie season, but that will need to continue to improve if he wants to live up to expectations. Having top-notch veteran depth around him in the locker room as well as on the playing field will only aid in his development and keep him fresh on a play in, play out basis.
An issue that hasn’t been talked about much but could become a pressing issue sooner rather than later is the tight end spot. The Bolts have enjoyed a tremendous run from Antonio Gates as a perennial Pro Bowler, but health concerns make him a bit of a liability heading into the new year. Martellus Bennett may not have the eye-popping numbers that you would hope for from a top notch pass catcher, but he has the physical tools to make some noise in the league and could be a late bloomer in the Bolts’ pass-happy offense.
A player that really has my attention as a possible signing at wide receiver is Robert Meachem who put up some solid statistics as the third or fourth option with the New Orleans Saints. Philip Rivers loves to spread the ball around and since it looks more and more likely that Vincent Jackson is on the way out, Meachem would make a great fit in his place. With Vincent Brown’s development thrown into hyper-speed, the addition of Meachem could help take some pressure off of the youngster and provide Malcom Floyd with a second option to aid him in getting open.
While the big names still remain an outside possibility for the Bolts heading into this free agency period, it seems more likely that the club opts for more bodies to flesh out what has become a relatively thin roster. With plenty of money heading into the signing melee set to begin on Tuesday, there are no excuses left for GM Smith as the club looks forward to 2012. This may very well be a make-or-break year for both he and Head Coach Norv Turner so the roster needs to be tooled to perfection.
Now it’s your turn! Do you see depth as the number one issue haunting the Bolts at this moment or do they need to make one or two big signings rather than five or six smaller ones? Would offensive line be the first spot on your to-do list as the GM or would you focus more resources elsewhere? Is it possible to fix the lack of pass rush and lack of receiving depth without breaking the bank, or does the team need to pursue big-name players to make a real impact? Does the sense of urgency in the front office make this the biggest free agency in both Smith and Turner’s careers or should it be business as usual for the guys in charge? Please fill up the comments section below with your opinions!
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