But with Rivers, the draft's fourth overall pick, waiting in the wings, Smith blew out Brees and went with the unproven Rivers.
If Rivers shines and the Chargers make the playoffs for the second time in 11 years, no one will question Smith's wisdom. But if Rivers falters in his first year as a starter and Brees continues his career upswing with the Saints, many will argue how wise was Smith's decision?
Free-agent safety Marlon McCree was brought in to shore up a secondary which helped the Chargers to the NFL's No. 28 rating defending the pass. He'll likely land at free safety, which causes a spirited battle at strong safety between Terrence Kiel, Bhawoh Jue and Clinton Hart.
Smith also thinks he did something in a below-the-radar fashion which could pay dividends. He acquired from the 49ers wide receiver Rashaun Woods, a first-round bust, for another first-round stinker, cornerback Sammy Davis.
Woods' two years in San Francisco were derailed by injuries. With the Chargers' thin receiving corps -- the Chargers let Reche Caldwell go to the Patriots -- Woods will get a chance to contribute and resurrect his disappointing career.