Do we look at injuries? How about our players going into free agency? Quarterback? Too soon to start looking at replacements for Philip Rivers? Lots of questions. Let’s start looking at some possible answers.
Let’s start with who’s a free agent this year and not go beyond that for now. Believe it or not, the Bolts are in pretty good shape contract wise. Only about 4-5 key players and a few role players leaving, so let’s take a look and see where we stand, position by position. Don’t hesitate to comment later… I’m bound to screw this up.
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Quarterback: Rivers is under what is probably his last contract, however, Kellen Clemens’ contract is expiring this year. My opinion? Spend a mid-round draft pick on a QB that needs seasoning. Even Rivers sat for two years.
Running Back: Melvin Gordon’s in the fold for a while, Branden Oliver’s a restricted free agent and Danny Woodhead is an unrestricted free agent. What do we do? I wouldn’t mind re-signing both of these guys. But if not, a mid-round or late round draft choice, maybe a free agent.
Wide Receiver: It seems like everyone’s signed on except Dontrelle Inman is a restricted free agent. The problem here is injuries. Can we count on Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson to play 14 games? If so, we don’t need a receiver. If not, we need a top flight free agent or high draft pick. Top 3 rounds should work.
Tight End: It seems like we’re in good shape here. Asante Cleveland and Sean McGrath are restricted free agents. Jeff Cumberland is an unrestricted free agent. Re-signing Cumberland would be nice but again health is an issue. With Antonio Gates here another year, and Hunter Henry a rising star, I think we’re OK.
Offensive Line: Surprisingly, contract-wise, we’re in good shape here, too. The problem is health. Only Kenny Wiggins is a free agent (restricted). Will King Dunlap survive another year? The addition of Matt Slauson was a great move. I do think a solid early draft pick would help here. First or second round. Remember we still have Max Tuerk and Spencer Pulley waiting in the wings. We add one more to this group and it might be quite impressive.
Secondary: Again, health. Jahleel Addae is an unrestricted free agent. Adrian Phillips is an exclusive rights free agent. Brandon Flowers, Craig Mager and Jason Verrett got hurt. Casey Hayward had a great year. If this group can stay healthy, it might be a very good group. Not sure we need help here. Dwight Lowery was an adequate replacement for Eric Weddle. I do hope we re-sign Addae even though he tends to hit his own players as much as the enemy. He sure brings an attitude-a needed attitude.
Linebacker: Melvin Ingram and Manti Te’o are unrestricted free agents as is Tourek Williams. Korey Toomer is a restricted free agent. I’d put Ingram as a high priority re-signing. With the way Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown played, I’m not so sure about Te’o. I don’t think he’d re-sign as a depth signing. Anyway, with us drafting Brown and Joshua Perry last year, another inside backer is a low priority this year.
Defensive Line: This one’s tough. Damion Square is an unrestricted free agent while Tenny Palepoi will be a restricted free agent. The starters are solid, but we need depth. Re-signing the three backups is good but a high draft choice here would sure help.
Special Teams: Mike Windt is an unrestricted free agent. It is critical that we re-sign him. Do you remember a bad snap in the last two years? I don’t. Even the failed field goal against the Oakland Raiders was a mishandled snap by Drew Kaser, not a bad snap. It sounds strange but Windt may be the best special teams player we have. Sure Darrell Stuckey and Nick Dzubnar do a great job, but it all starts with the snap. With young kickers, having Windt as a security blanket is critical.
In summary, draft or sign a defensive lineman, pass rusher and offensive line help as priorities. Get a quarterback somewhere in the middle rounds and depth everywhere else. Re-sign Ingram, Addae and Windt. The rest can be signed for depth. I hate to say it, but I think we can let Te’o go unless it’s a team friendly contract. Finally, looking at this article, two things come to mind. 1. Tom Telesco’s done a good job signing and drafting talent. 2. We have a pretty good core group. Health is a problem and I’m not sure why. One good healthy year probably puts us in the playoffs. I sure hope so.