Though the San Diego Chargers are typically conservative in free agency, expect them to be more aggressive this year as the team knows it has to win now or the A.J. Smith-Norv Turner era is very likely entering its final act.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Chargers are expected to have a ton of room to maneuver under the salary cap, and will likely get more by cutting tackle Marcus McNeill next month. For his salary to be guaranteed for 2012, McNeill must be cleared to play after a neck injury prematurely ended his 2011 season — and he is unlikely to get that medical clearance from team doctors, the paper reports. The Chargers could opt to stay in-house and sign Jared Gaither, whom the Chargers signed after he was cut by Kansas City and played well in McNeill’s absence.
The paper also reports that defensive end Luis Castillo and linebacker Takeo Spikes could be cut or asked to take pay cuts to remain with the team. Guard Kris Dielman, meanwhile, might be leaning toward playing this season. He was considering retirement because of a concussion that ended his 2011 season.
The Chargers are targeting several in-house free agents, including receiver Vincent Jackson, center Nick Hardwick (if he decides to play) and running back Mike Tolbert. San Diego could turn to the open market for a strong safety, a pass-rusher and an offensive lineman, among other positions.
Meanwhile, here is a look at the Raiders’ contact situation; you can see some clear candidates for contract restructuring as the team works to get under the salary cap. The league’s exact salary-cap figures have not been determined.