Temperature Check on In-House UFAs: Defense

The Chargers have six starters scheduled for unrestricted free agency, three on offense and three on defense. We will examine all six players in this two-part series, along with a suggestion on whether San Diego should bring each player back or let him walk.

For a discussion of San Diego's pending offensive free agents, click here.

CB Brandon Flowers

Flowers proved to be a steal after joining the Chargers on a one-year, $3 million deal. He started all 14 games he appeared in and finished with a team-high three interceptions and 10 pass breakups. His impact would have been even greater had rookie first-round pick Jason Verrett not missed the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. After Verrett went down, opponents routinely threw away from Flowers and attacked Shareece Wright on the other side of the field.

Flowers' impact extended beyond the field. He instantly emerged as a leader in the locker room and a mentor for young cornerbacks like Steve Williams, Chris Davis, Greg Ducre and Richard Crawford.

"Brandon fit in very well with us," GM Tom Telesco said. "He's a good player on the field. He fit in inside the locker room. He's a great worker and a great guy to be around."

The decision on Flowers is one of the easier ones Telesco will make this offseason, as the team cannot afford to let him walk. The Chargers finished the season with the league's No. 4 pass defense and Flowers' arrival was a big reason for that. As for a price point? Last offseason, the Dolphins re-signed Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32 million deal that included $16 million guaranteed. Expect Flowers to ink for similar.

Verdict: Lock Him Up

CB Shareece Wright

As mentioned above, Wright was picked on at times last season. He also went all season without intercepting a pass, which is obviously disappointing given how much activity he saw. Essentially, he is a poor man's Quentin Jammer, a physical player with good technique but no ball skills.

That being said, there is a lot to like about Wright. He is an excellent tackler on a defense that struggled to tackle this season. He also has better size that Flowers and Verrett, making him better suited to play on the outside. The Chargers are at their best when they have Wright and Flowers on the outside and Verrett in the slot.

The Chargers could let Wright walk and use a middle-round pick to restore cornerback depth. But there are two problems with that: 1) there is no guarantee a middle-round pick will net a player better than Wright; and 2) given San Diego's other needs, I would rather see draft picks allocated to both sides of the line (not to mention needs at running back, receiver, inside linebacker and safety).

If the Chargers can bring back Wright with a short-term deal averaging about $4 million per season, it could be a winning arrangement for both parties.

Verdict: Bring Him Back

SS Marcus Gilchrist

While Flowers represents Telesco's easiest decision, Gilchrist represents his most complicated. On the one hand, the team loves Gilchrist's versatility. A former corner, he serves as both the starting strong safety and the nickel corner. He also authored arguably the biggest play of the 2014 season, a game-winning interception in the end zone against the Rams (though, to be fair, he also dropped what would have been a game-winning interception in Week 1 against the Cardinals).

"He's just a solid football player and a guy you love having on your team," said Telesco of Gilchrist.

The problem, in the broadest sense, is that the Chargers are soft on defense and Gilrchist only exasperates that issue. San Diego may be better off with a thumper who can be more effective in the box. That man may be Jahleel Addae, or it may be a free agent such as Louis Delmas (Miami). If Telesco waits for the NFL Draft, his options will include Jaquiski Tartt (Samford), Corey Cooper (Nebraska) and Isaiah Johnson (Georgia Tech).

Final Verdict: Let Him Walk

Which free agents do you want to see back? Discuss inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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