Back-to-back seasons out of the playoffs seem to have changed things, however.
The Chargers allowed their leading receiver, Vincent Jackson, to jump ship to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a five-year contract that pays him about $11 million per season. A.J. Smith replaced him with a pair of wide outs, former first-round pick Robert Meachem and slot receiver/return specialist Eddie Royal, who combine to make approximately $11 million annually.
Also new to the offensive huddle is former Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain. He assumes the starting job from Jacob Hester, a free agent who could still return in a reserve role. McClain also might help fill Mike Tolbert's shoes, as Tolbert is also a free agent and is likely to sign elsewhere.
There are veteran additions on defense, as well.
LB Jarret Johnson
Also new at LB is Demorrio Williams, who was picked up on waivers shortly before the start of free agency. He figures to contribute on passing downs and on special teams, similar to the man he replaces, Na'il Diggs.
Is Williams an upgrade over Diggs? It's debatable, but what's clear is that Williams is different, and different is suddenly in at Chargers Park.
Smith has already acquired five veterans who played for other teams last season and free agency is not even a week old. Assuming he adds two more outside free agents -- a safe bet considering the lack of depth on both lines -- and assuming that at least seven rookies make the final roster, that means over a quarter of San Diego's roster will be new to the team.
That is hardly the norm in continuity conscious San Diego. But given the middling results of the last two seasons, Smith knew he had to initiate more change before the thing that's changed is him.
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.