Bolts Notebook: Your FA Primer

The Chargers have already made several in-house transactions to prepare for free agency. There may be more to come as the market officially opens in less than a week. Here is a look at the transactions made to-date and the players Tom Telesco & Co. may target.

The Chargers have been busy since the season ended. The biggest transaction was signing inside linebacker Donald Butler to a new seven-year contract that could be worth as much as $48 million. The team was very creative in its structure, however, inserting a team option after Year 3 to pick up the remaining four years. The first three years of the deal are worth just under $20 million, with $12 million guaranteed.

Butler was San Diego's top target for retention. Keeping him off the market is a coup and allows John Pagano to return his inside 'backer duo of Butler and Manti Te'o, a pair that should grow together in its second season.

The Chargers have made several cost-saving moves to prepare for spending season, as well. San Diego released CB Derek Cox and FB Le'Ron McClain, moves that saved the team nearly $7 million. Also let go was CB Johnny Patrick, further assuring the team's need for cornerback help.

Possible targets in free agency are Brent Grimes (Miami Dolphins), Sam Shields (Green Bay Packers), Alterraun Verner (Tennessee Titans) and Vontae Davis (Indianapolis Colts).

The Chargers will look to fill other holes in free agency, too, depending on how much cap room Telesco can create. He already restructured the deal of WR Eddie Royal to ensure the talented slot receiver will return for the last year of his contract in 2014. Royal was slated to have a cap number of $6 million.

It is possible the Chargers could still address the contracts of OG Jeromey Clary (cap number of $6.23 million in the final year of his deal) and OLB Jarret Johnson ($5.5 million cap number in 2014, under contract through 2015).

Depending on how much cap space the Chargers carve out, the team will be in the market for help at cornerback, nose tackle, outside linebacker and possibly guard (depending on what happens with Chad Rinehart and Rich Ohrnberger, both set to become free agents).

Whatever needs cannot be addressed in free agency will have to wait for the draft, which appears to be Telesco's strong suit. His first draft produced three starters, two of whom dominated as rookies, as well as promising pass rusher Tourek Williams. Steve Williams, a fifth-round pick who missed his rookie season with a pectoral injury, is now penciled into a larger role thanks to the releases of Cox and Patrick.

Talk about all of the Chargers' free agency plans inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the 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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