Free Agency isn’t always about big names, and looking at the San Diego Chargers free agents (17) list that statement is more than just words. Below is some short thoughts on some (not all) current Charger free agents who need they need to keep.
1.) VINCENT JACKSON (Wide Receiver): 7 years of service, 272 catches for 4,754 receiving yards (7th in Chargers history), and 37 scores (tied for 7th).
Why: Jackson is the best receiver the Chargers have and when he is in the lineup their offense takes on another gear. When defenses key on him fellow talented receiver MALCOLM FLOYD just annoys defenses with his all-world hands and deep game. Plus, besides Jackson and Floyd the Chargers have a collection of receivers who are not ready or who may never be consistent threats for the Chargers. If the Chargers let Jackson go, they will have to groom a receiver from the draft to possibly take his place or pray that they can find a current free agent receiver who will agree to their terms financially and then perform up to expectations.
2.) MIKE TOLBERT (Running Back)
Why: Tolbert has an angry, non-flashy, but a punishing and effective running style that is a complement to No. 1 Charger running back RYAN MATHEWS. The Chargers needed Tolbert in 2010 and 2011 when Mathews went down to injuries. Tolbert was the Chargers second leading rusher in 2011 and he led them in rushing in 2010 so he can perform when he has to. He is valuable when the Chargers need to kill time when they have a lead late in a game and he can block and is unselfish.
3.) NICK HARDWICK (Center)
Why: When healthy, Hardwick is one of the best short area blockers in the game. He also can get down field but he isn’t asked to carry out that task that much. He can also play guard too. When the Chargers have runs to the left and right side of his shoulders (his blocking area) they don’t have to worry about him locking up blockers. Hardwick is underrated (much like his fellow offensive lineman KRIS DIELMAN) but Charger running backs and PHILIP RIVERS know all about what he can do and what he has done for their offense. Since his rookie year he has started 80.4 percent of a possible 128 games the Chargers have played since 2004.
4.) MIKE WINDT (Long/Short Snapper)
Why: He has quietly given the Chargers solid service and it is not as easy as one thinks to find snappers that can quickly synch themselves to team punters and kickers. Plus Windt is cheap ($405,000).
5.) STEVE GREGORY (Strong Safety)
Why: ERIC WEDDLE gets all the attention as far as the Chargers safeties go, but Gregory is a hitter, he can cover, and he can defense the run. Yes, he is not a big difference maker or a star but Gregory (going back to his days at Syracuse) is a heck of competitor and can cover so much field. Weddle and Gregory complement each so well and it would be a shame to break them up. His resume shows 241 career tackles, 4 thefts and 17 passes broken up.6.) ANTONIO GARAY (Defensive Tackle)
Why: He is cheap (makes an average of $635,000 a year from his original contract) and effective labor. Starting defensive tackle and mainstay LUIS CASTILLO is an injury risk and Garay was effective when he had to step in and start/alternate in 2011. He was seventh on the team in tackles with 57 (which led the entire defensive line) and he has a high motor. Yes, he is not really a prototypical three-down 3-4 defensive tackle but he can provide pass rush (8 sacks in the last two years) and be a menace at the point of attack when he has to be. He has 105 tackles in the last two years and that is a lot for a defensive tackle.