Trade wide receiver Vincent Jackson for a second-round pick in the 2009 draft. Teams such as the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings would all be expected entrants in the bidding for the 6-foot-5, 241-pound receiver.
Why deal Jackson?
The Chargers have a logjam at receiver caused by the return of Eric Parker and the development of Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee. As the roster stands now, Davis would likely be the No. 4 receiver one year after being tabbed with a first-round pick. Naanee would be the No. 5 receiver and would be inactive on most game days.
The reason for moving Jackson instead of Parker, Davis or Naanee is that Jackson carries the most trade value. His value is at an all-time high after he averaged 100 yards per game in three playoff contests. However, that productivity came when Antonio Gates rendered ineffective by a toe injury. Jackson has been known to lose focus and disappear for long stretches in games; it remains to be seen if he can maintain his postseason efficiency as the No. 3 option in the passing game.
What are the short-term payoffs?
WR Vincent Jackson
Behind the starters, Davis would play out of the slot and Naanee would continue to develop as the No. 4. Kassim Osgood can drop no lower than No. 5 because he must be active on game days to contribute on special teams. This leaves the No. 6 slot open for Malcom Floyd, a talented developmental project the Bolts don't want to give up on yet.
What are the long-term benefits?
Firstly, the team recoups the second-round pick it traded away to land FB Jacob Hester. With the Chargers expecting two compensatory picks next year, that would give Smith at least nine selections to work with. That could prove crucial just one year before several core players come up for free agency.
Speaking of the possible mass exodus in 2009, dealing Jackson would alleviate a big contract from Smith's to-do list. By not having to commit money to a new deal for Jackson, Smith can concentrate on players like Shawne Merriman, Philip Rivers and Marcus McNeill.
Are there any drawbacks?
The Chargers would hate to give up on a player of Jackson's ability, especially after spending three years grooming him. He has the size of a tight end; yet his ability to drop his hips and create separation downfield is on par with the top receivers in the game. He is a dynamite target in the red zone and along the sidelines, especially on third down. Additionally, he boasts big-play ability, as evidenced by average of 16 yards per reception.
Dealing Jackson is especially scary because he played at a Div. II college and is only 25 years old. His best football may still be ahead of him and he could turn out to be a classier version of Terrell Owens.
Deal or no deal?
All signs point to no deal for the time being. Smith is a firm believer in competition and hopes his overloaded receiving corps brings out the best in everybody. He is determined to surround Rivers with as many weapons as possible as Rivers tries to join the ranks of draft classmates Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.
Jackson could still be moved, especially if a team loses a big receiver in the preseason and gets desperate for a replacement. Barring a blow-away offer, however, expect the Chargers to stand pat. Smith would rather cut a good receiver at the end of camp than wind up without one at the end of the regular season.
Should the Chargers trade Jackson? Is there a better deal Smith could make? Let us know about it in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com 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.