The Chargers will lose some players on the open market, though. Vincent Jackson avoided the franchise tag and may be wooed by a general manager who shows him more love than Smith has (not saying much). Mike Tolbert could be gone, too, joining the franchise's long list of talented backup running backs allowed to get away.
Assuming that is how in-house free agents are handled, here's a look at five outside free agents who would make great pickups for the Chargers.
WR Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
The Chargers need at least one splashy signing and this qualifies. Colston replaces Jackson and ensures Philip Rivers has a legitimate No. 1 receiver to work with. That's important since Malcom Floyd is injury prone and Antonio Gates is not what he once was. Colston makes tough grabs and lots of them; he has at least 70 catches in five of the last six years. Jackson, by comparison, has never registered a 70-catch season.
SS LaRon Landry, Washington Redskins
SS LaRon Landry
Otto Greule Jr./Getty
OLB Bryan Thomas, New York Jets
The Bolts need an outside pass rusher in the worst way, but the real answer may not come until the draft (possibly Courtney Upshaw). But a veteran is needed, too, and Thomas may be the answer. While not a superb pass rusher, he is a complete player with experience in the 3-4 scheme. He has the speed to bend the corner and is underrated in run support and coverage. He is coming off an ACL injury but should be 100 percent in time for training camp.
RB Mewelde Moore, Pittsburgh Steelers
Now that Ryan Mathews has cemented himself as the lead back, it makes sense to replace Tolbert with a more traditional third-down back. Moore is an exceptional receiver out of the backfield (214 career receptions) and could replace some of what the Chargers lost when Darren Sproles left for New Orleans. Moore is also a great pass protector and a strong enough runner to start a handful of games if needed.
OT Brandon Keith, Arizona Cardinals
Even if the Chargers re-sign Gaither, another tackle is needed. Keith could replace Brandyn Dombrowski as the top backup and could even push Jeromey Clary. He also has the ability to play guard, which is key now that Kris Dielman is walking away. Keith has seen each of his last two seasons cut short by lower leg injuries, so he may come relatively cheap and be a great low-risk, high-reward signing.
Who should the Chargers go after in free agency? 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.