The first former Charger who merits another look is DE Chase Page. The Chargers originally tabbed Page in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He failed to stick in San Diego and spent a couple seasons with the Miami Dolphins before falling out of the league last season.
Bringing back Page (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) makes sense for a number of reasons. He is a prototype 3-4 defensive end with youth and experience. And even if he doesn't make the active roster, he could spark competition and hasten the development of young linemen like Vaughn Martin, Keith Grennan and Andre Coleman.
While Page's upside is inviting, so is the veteran experience of CB Fakhir Brown. Brown, 31, originally signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 1999 and spent his first two seasons in San Diego. He spent the next seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams.
CB Fakhir Brown
Brown, who was let go by the Rams this offseason, has started 37 games over the last three seasons. For his career, he has 300 tackles, 59 pass breakups and 11 interceptions.
Although past his prime and no longer a legitimate starting candidate, Brown could challenge for the final spot in the cornerback rotation and help some of the Bolts' younger DBs in their development. If Brown's veteran presence helped Antonio Cromartie's focus, Cletis Gordon's confidence or Brandon Hughes' technique, the addition would be well worth it.
The player with the best chance to return and make an impact is FB Andrew Pinnock. A seventh-round pick of the Bolts in 2003, Pinnock spent his first five years in San Diego and was seen as the heir apparent to Lorenzo Neal. However, his slow recovery from microfracture knee surgery led to his release. He was replaced last season by rookies Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert.
Now another year post-op, Pinnock may be ready to challenge for his old position. When healthy, he is a better lead blocker than Hester or Tolbert, and also offers some punch as a runner in short-yardage situations.
Pinnock also has the trust of LaDainian Tomlinson, something Hester and Tolbert have yet to earn.
A few other former Chargers could merit second looks, depending on what happens later this offseason. For example, if the team cuts ties with disgruntled special-teams standout Kassim Osgood, Smith could turn to Carlos Polk or Hanik Milligan.
Given Smith's track record, it's unlikely any of these players will return. And at this point in their careers, it's even less likely they would play significant roles if they did. However, all of them could create competition at vulnerable positions on the roster. And that, as even Smith will tell you, is what it's all about.
Which former Bolts would you like to see back? Talk 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.