Draft Changes Outlook for Free Agents

With the draft over and done with, the Chargers are re-evaluating their options for free agency … whenever that begins. The team's needs are different now than a month ago, as the arrival of eight draftees changed the outlook for several pending free agents.

The Chargers have a long list of players who could taste free agency in some shape or form, but there are 10 of particular significance.

The defense has the most players in limbo, as LBs Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper, Brandon Siler and Antwan Barnes could all become free agents. Jacques Cesaire, Eric Weddle and Dante Hughes are also likely to hit the open market.

On offense, Malcom Floyd, Darren Sproles and Jeromey Clary are names of note.

Of those 10, eight of them watched the Chargers tab their potential replacement in the 2011 NFL draft.

LB Brandon Siler
Ronald Martinez/Getty
The selection of ILB Jonas Mouton in Round Two gives the team protection at its most vulnerable area. Burnett, Cooper and Siler are also made more expendable by the presence of 2010 third-round pick Donald Butler, who missed his rookie season with an ACL injury but is now healthy and ready to roll.

The Chargers still cannot afford to let all three incumbents walk, but it certainly provides strength at the negotiating table.

Cesaire is the lone starter to get instantly bumped to the backburner, thanks to the Corey Liuget selection in the opening stanza. That doesn't preclude Cesaire from returning as a backup, but it is all but certain the Chargers won't be his strongest pursuer with Liuget, Luis Castillo and Vaughn Martin already in the fold.

Also getting bumped out of his job was Hughes, who watched the Chargers select a pair of cornerbacks in the first three rounds: Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright. Hughes, once a strong candidate to return, will have to find playing time elsewhere.

The fact that Gilchrist and Wright can both play safety shouldn't worry Weddle, although the addition of former Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders and the development of 2010 fourth-round pick Darrell Stuckey provide some insurance. Nonetheless, Weddle is arguably the team's top priority to re-sign.

Another priority re-sign, Clary, won big when the Chargers waited until Round Six to land a tackle. Steve Schilling is a developmental project. If Clary moves on, the Chargers will need to find a veteran replacement; while Brandyn Dombrowski is a suitable fill-in, the cupboard is bare behind him.

The other big winner was Barnes, as the Chargers whiffed on all of their attempts at landing a pass-rushing linebacker. That's a boost for Barnes, who last season was the team's only reliable source of heat opposite Shaun Phillips.

San Diego picked a scat back in case Sproles moves on, though Jordan Todman could be stashed on the practice squad in the unlikely event that Sproles takes less money and fewer snaps to extend his tenure in lightning bolts.

Vincent Brown could log heavy minutes if Floyd cannot be retained, although Brown's selection probably has more to do with replacing the flamed-out pair of Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee than it does Floyd.

How does San Diego's roster look after the draft? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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