General manager A. J. Smith is looking for ways to improve what was among the NFL's worst pass defenses last season. That area of the defense will get help when pass-rusher Shawne Merriman returns, but Smith is looking for better play out of his cornerbacks.
Quentin Jammer, one corner, had another solid season. But the same can't be said for Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie made quite a splash in 2007 when leading the league with a franchise-best 10 interceptions and reaching the Pro Bowl.
Going into the 2008 season, he crowed about a goal of 15 interceptions to set the NFL record. Instead, he got two interceptions and was repeatedly exposed for being out of position and showing a reluctance to hit.
Cromartie said he played most the season with a fractured hip, although the team never said that. What is broken is the Chargers' undying faith in Cromartie.
Smith mentioned quite a few players recently who need to step up their game - go ahead and put the athletic Cromartie at the top of that list.
CB Antonio Cromartie
But Florence passed on the Chargers and Smith has said Cromartie will not be moved.
That said, Cromartie has to move the needle in regard to how the Chargers feel about him. At one time the team was considering a long-term deal for the next-great-cornerback.
But after a disappointing 2008, it is almost like Cromartie is a rookie again and needs to prove that he is more than a freak - athletically - and can actually play football as well.
--LaDainian Tomlinson wants to return to San Diego. Chargers general manager A. J. Smith wants Tomlinson, the future Hall of Famer running back, to return to San Diego. But despite two parties seemingly sharing common ground, Tomlinson and the team are at an impasse. The Chargers want Tomlinson, who rushed for 1,110 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, to lessen his salary of $6.7 million. Tomlinson is open to adjust his contract that runs through 2011, but he doesn't feel a pay cut is warranted. Especially with the Chargers showering running back Darren Sproles with $6.8 million as the team's franchise player.
"I am optimistic (a new contract) will happen," Tomlinson said. "But again, I'm realistic about certain things, and I understand it is a business."
Tomlinson is now saying he expects to play past his current contract and is intrigued about making a run at Emmitt Smith's all-time rushing mark - Tomlinson is 6,585 yards from Smith, is idol while growing up in Waco, Texas.
--Why did the Chargers get crushed by the Steelers in the playoffs, one step shy of their second straight AFC Championship Game? "We're not good enough to take on the big boys," Smith said.
--DE Igor Olshansky, a former second round pick who was allowed to flee, could be considered to shore up that spot in Washington.
--CB Quentin Jammer, the Chargers' man of the year, took some 80 kids from a local foster home to see the Harlem Globetrotters play.
--There is nothing new to report regarding the Chargers locating a new site where to build a stadium. Chula Vista, a San Diego suburb, remains interested but a move there seems to have very traction. Meanwhile, plans to build and NFL stadium some 100 miles in the Los Angeles suburb of Industry continue.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We got some guys that need to step up. You give people opportunities, but a lot of guys are on notice." -- GM A.J. Smith of some of his underachieving players facing a make-or-break season.
DE Luis Castillo
The team doesn't figure to be big players in the free agency market, as the Chargers tend to build their roster through the draft.
That doesn't expect to change, as GM A.J. Smith's philosophy is to target good young players on his team and sign them to long-term contracts.
But it doesn't always pan out as he has given long-term deals to defensive end Luis Castillo and linebackers Matt Wilhelm and Jyles Tucker with mixed results.
TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY
While not chasing the big-name free agents seeking the big bucks, the Chargers would still like upgrade a few areas with some fresh faces.
Safety Jermaine Phillips, who has started 64 games over the past five years with Tampa Bay, came in for a visit. He played strong safety the last two years and the Chargers are looking to displace 2008 opening day starter Clinton Hart in that role if possible.
Another player to keep an eye on is Kevin Burnett, an inside linebacker who has started four games in his career after being the Cowboys' second round pick in 2005.
1. Running back: The Chargers are still seeking an every-down back. Will that be LaDainian Tomlinson - yes, if he agrees to a restructured deal. If not, the Chargers offer just Darren Sproles, who is dynamite when getting to the edge but cannot carry the load between the tackles.
2. Secondary: The team is seeking depth at cornerback and a possible fresh starter at strong safety. Antonio Cromartie has been put on notice at one cornerback spot; last year's opening day starter Clinton Hart at strong safety saw him playing time diminish as the season wore on.
3. Offensive line: With Mike Goff, the right guard being able to leave, and Jeromey Clary, the right tackle, revealing blemishes in his game, the Chargers are keen on rebuilding this side of the line.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: RB Darren Sproles: Tendered at $6.621M.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RG Mike Goff has been reliable and a hard-nosed player, but the Chargers have said he won't be back.
--OLB Marques Harris was used on passing downs and has shown some promise, but he won't be re-signed.
--C Jeremy Newberry was a valuable backup when Nick Hardwick was injured early last season, but the Chargers won't re-sign him.
--DE Igor Olshansky griped about his playing time after the season and the Chargers won't try to re-sign him.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--WR Malcom Floyd (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) has a good connection with QB Philip Rivers and can be a solid red-zone target. Injuries slowed him some down the stretch last year.
--CB Cletis Gordon (tendered at $1.545M with second-round pick as compensation) surprised some by getting that tender as some of his shortcomings were exposed when playing extended stretches last year. But he is a solid special teams player and has potential as a returner.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--OT Jeromey Clary started for the first time last year and was adequate. But the team is looking to upgrade here.
--OG Kynan Forney: Potential UFA; $4.8M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: None.
--RB Eldra Buckley (released).
--LB Anthony Waters (released).