Chargers Hope to Avoid Mass Exodus After 2009

Clinton Hart's new five-year deal was just the tip of the iceberg. San Diego has 10 more starters scheduled for free agency by the end of the 2009 season and won't be able to keep them all. Chargers expert Michael Lombardo breaks down each of these players and explains who is going to re-up and who is going to up and leave.

DE Igor Olshansky (Contract ends after 2008)—Olshansky is a dominant run defender who's had middling success against the pass (nine sacks in four seasons). His modest statistics will prevent him from landing a big-money deal elsewhere, so expect the Chargers to lock him up.

G Mike Goff (Contract ends after 2008)—Goff, 32, is likely entering his final season with the Chargers. Scott Mruczkowski, who signed a new three-year deal earlier this offseason, is expected to replace him in the starting lineup.

LS David Binn (Contract ends after 2008)—Binn, 36, is one of the most consistent long snappers in the NFL. Nonetheless, he can't play forever and there are cheaper alternatives available. This could be the final season in Blue & Gold for the franchise's record holder in games played.

QB Philip Rivers
Streeter Lecka/Getty

QB Philip Rivers (Contract ends after 2009)— Although Rivers takes a lot of flack when the offense stalls, the numbers speak for themselves. He is 25-7 as a starter, completing more than 60 percent of his passes with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 44-5. He cemented his status as the face of the franchise with his gusty performance in the postseason. Expect him to sign a contract similar to the seven-year, $60 million deal recently signed by Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard.

LB Shawne Merriman (Contract ends after 2009)— Merriman is the prototypical outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense, tallying 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons. He is a tremendous leader who gets the defense fired up with big words and big hits. He will be looking for upwards of $20 million in guaranteed money on his next contract, so he could be a candidate for the franchise tag.

LT Marcus McNeill (Contract ends after 2009)—Although he regressed slightly after an incredible rookie season, McNeill still found himself playing in the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year. He has terrific agility for his size (6'7", 336 pounds), which allows him to take on the league's best pass-rushers without tight end help. The Chargers will find the money to keep him in the fold with a long-term deal.

DE Luis Castillo (Contract ends after 2009)—Castillo is a dominant two-way defender who has problems staying healthy, missing 12 games over the last two seasons. As one of the humbler players in the league, he will not try to break the bank and thus has a great chance to re-sign.

WR Chris Chambers (Contract ends after 2009)—It was no coincidence that Rivers' second-half resurgence coincided with the arrival of Chambers. The ability of Chambers to separate from single coverage and win jump balls adds another dimension to the Bolts' offense. A.J. Smith didn't give up a second-round pick for a 2½ year rental, so expect Chambers to re-up before hitting the open market.

WR Vincent Jackson (Contract ends after 2009)—Jackson is one of the best run-blocking receivers in the NFL and can dominate as a pass-catcher, as evidenced by his play in the postseason (18 catches for 300 yards and two TDs). However, the presence of Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee makes Jackson expendable.

RT Jeromey Clary (Contract ends after 2009)—The verdict is still out on Clary, who started six games last season after Shane Olivea fell out of favor. Clary proved capable in his audition, but the Chargers may look to upgrade through the draft. With so many veterans in line for new contracts, Clary sits at the bottom of the totem poll.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and 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 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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