Contract Watch: The four who've yet to score

No general manager does a better job taking care of his own than A.J. Smith. After giving Brandon Manumaleuna a new three-year contract, the Chargers now have 28 players signed through at least the 2009 season. However, a few players have slipped through the cracks. Here is a look at four Chargers scheduled for unrestricted free agency at season's end.

The most prominent name is Drayton Florence, an aggressive cornerback who has gotten better with each passing season. Were it not for a bad case of butterfingers, Florence would have finished the 2006 season with double-digit interceptions and a trip to Hawaii. Instead, he will be remembered for losing his cool in the playoff loss to the New England Patriots and for the plays the let slip away.

Another member of the secondary preparing for a contract year is Bhawoh Jue. The story here will be told in training camp, when the coaching staff must decide whether to allow Jue to compete for the starting strong safety job. If that happens and Jue wins the vacant post, an extension is likely. If Jue spends another season as a reserve, it will likely be his last in San Diego.

On the offensive side of the ball, Michael Turner is the biggest name set to hit the market. Barring a disaster in which LaDainian Tomlinson suffers a devastating and long-term injury, Turner will move to another team and get the money and playing time he so richly deserves.

The final free agent of any significance is Billy Volek, who has the experience and football IQ the Chargers crave at the No. 2 quarterback position. More likely than not, the Chargers will let Volek walk, allowing Charlie Whitehurst to move up a notch on the depth chart. If the price is right, the team could bring Volek back on a short-term contract.

So who stays and who goes? The smart money says that Florence doesn't make it out of San Diego, with a contract extension possibly coming before the regular season gets underway. A.J. Smith realizes that if Florence starts catching the passes he dropped a year ago, his price could skyrocket.

As for the other three free-agents-to-be, each is likely in his final year wearing blue and gold. After all, football is a business. Behind every great player is a younger and cheaper one, just itching to take his place.

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