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Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange
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TEAM NEEDS

Left tackle: The Chargers have options here, but which course do they take? Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeill is under contract but must pass a physical to prove his neck has mended after ending last season on injured reserve. The Chargers could decide to pass on paying McNeill his $10 million roster bonus and turn their thoughts to backup Jared Gaither. But Gaither is a free agent, and could have played his way into a big payday with his showing last year when McNeill was down.

Outside linebacker: The Chargers are in desperate need of a pass rusher and they are hopeful to find someone to start opposite Shaun Phillips in their 3-4 alignment. The Chargers' patience with former first-round pick Larry English has about abated.

Strong safety: Ever since prematurely showing All-Pro strong safety Rodney Harrison the door the Chargers have been seeking a reliable, hard-hitting replacement. That quest continues one more year as the team missed on Bob Sanders last season and is looking for an upgrade over his replacement, Steve Gregory. This unit needs a thumper and would prefer it comes from the strong-safety position.

MEDICAL WATCH
No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER
None.

TRANSITION PLAYER
None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--ILB Stephen Cooper tried to fight through an arm injury last season and eventually went to injured reserve. He won't be returning.

--WR Patrick Crayton was a viable option, especially with injuries to Malcom Floyd. But the thinking is Vincent Brown has matured enough to take Crayton's role.

--LB Na'il Diggs will likely be expendable, if as expected, Jonas Mouton is available after being hurt and missing his rookie season.

--LT Jared Gaither has seen his leverage skyrocket after being cut by the Chiefs and landing with his third team. With Marcus McNeill's return doubtful, Gaither's stock is high.

--DT Antonio Garay has been the bridge from All-Pro Jamal Williams to, the Chargers hope, an upgrade at this spot in the offseason.

--SS Steve Gregory could be the odd man out in a secondary reshuffle, but don't we say that every year? The Chargers are looking to upgrade here, but Gregory could be retained as backup.

--C Nick Hardwick is Pro-Bowl caliber and the Chargers can ill-afford to lose him in their offensive line shuffle.

--DL Tommie Harris exceeded the Chargers' expectations after being added in Week 3. Got a start during the year and gave the unit a little boost.

--FB Jacob Hester might be a better option of returning than Mike Tolbert; he can't run like Tolbert. But he, too, can play on short-yardage downs and does well on special teams.

--WR Vincent Jackson is an elite player for his position and will be paid accordingly. The Chargers have had numerous chances to sign him to a long-term deal and have declined. They are hoping he tests the market and returns with an offer to the Chargers' liking; that seems doubtful.

--TE Randy McMichael has proven to be reliable as a pass-catcher when Antonio Gates is ailing and as a blocker. Huge in the clubhouse as well - team would like to retain him.

--OT Tony Moll provided some needed depth during the offensive line's injury siege, but isn't a big priority for next season.

--G Scott Mruczkowski fought through concussion problems last year but is expected to be OK for next season. The team likes his versatility and familiarity with the system.

--FS Paul Oliver hasn't quite developed into the player the Chargers hoped for; destined for a backup role if brought back.

--SS Bob Sanders didn't get past the second game last year and isn't expected to resume his career.

--RB Mike Tolbert is productive - led the team in rushing touchdowns last year - gets the tough yards and plays special teams. His versatility might have priced him out of the Chargers' range.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--RB Curtis Brinkley showed some spark in his brief appearances and will likely be back. His stock could rise if Mike Tolbert flees, although they aren't the same kind of backs.

--OL Brandyn Dombrowski had two starts at left tackle last season; lost his spot to Jared Gaither. The team would welcome Dombrowski back in a backup role.

--TE Kory Sperry has shown enough - tough to do with Gates and McMichael on the roster as well - to be kept in the program. The Chargers see an upside here.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--WR Richard Goodman showed his value with a 105-yard kick return in final game, improving his standing with the club.

--LS Mike Windt has taken over the role long held by David Binn and is expected to return next season.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--LB Demorrio Williams: FA Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--LG Kris Dielman (retired).

--DE Luis Castillo (released).

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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