The Lowdown on Free Agency

Free agency is set to begin in little more than a month, and there promises to be big names on the list and certainly a number of surprises as players get released including some from San Diego.

The Chargers will let some big names go for certain, they will also look to restructure plenty of contracts as they look to get under the cap first and foremost, and then become a player in the market which may include big names such as David Boston and Peerless Price.

The first date to watch is March 1. That's when free agency is slated to begin and when first roster bonuses are due. Teams that have the option of voiding large contracts can do so at or around this time. Expect to see players who had good relationships with their current teams -- like RB Emmitt Smith -- to be released early. The rationale is that, if the team can't re-sign the player, as a goodwill gesture, they release the player to give him as much time to sign on with someone else.

The second date is April 1. Many contracts have April 1 as a roster bonus period. For some players, these bonuses are huge, as much as $3-4 million simply to remain on the roster. Some teams may hold on to their star quality players, hope that teams in their division with limited cap room take part in the early free agent feeding frenzy and can't get in bidding wars for their services to come directly back to haunt them.

The third date is June 1. This is when the hard cuts get made. These are guys that are going to provide a big cap hit –and releasing a player after this date, the cap hit can be spread over two years instead of one. This is where you'll see some of the biggest names of all, since they signed big deals four years ago and the eye-popping set of numbers come due -- like Mark Brunell counting $11 million against the Jags salary cap.

The key is not restructuring deals to delay the killer cap hit but instead spending the money smartly, not something John Butler has been known for in the free agent market – see Tim Dwight and Stephen Alexander's contracts. Hugh Douglas and Mo Lewis will likely be allowed to check out free agency, which could be a boom for teams with money to spend and needs on defense.

The next question is when will the Chargers make their moves, well some players such as Curtis Conway will find out early, he is due a roster bonus in March, other player such as Terrell Fletcher may have to wait to see their fate, even if it has already been sealed.

Stay Tuned: Next week we break out our huge Free Agency Guide which will include everything you need to know regarding Free Agency including a tracker on cuts, rumors and signings for the Chargers and around the league. Also key terminology will be highlighted and the early news on Free Agency.

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