Barring an agreement on a new CBA, Merriman will become a restricted free agent. Expect the Chargers to tender Merriman with a first-round protection and if another team comes with an offer, the Chargers will take the draft pick and run.
The question is this: Who would give up a first-round pick for a pass-rusher with just four sacks since 2007? The only thing going for Merriman is that players typically struggle in their first year back from reconstructive knee surgery, so theoretically, he'll return to form in 2010.
However, the Chargers have grown tired of Merriman making headlines for all the wrong reasons. If any team chooses to make a run at him this offseason, he'll be there for the taking.
OT Jeromey Clary
These seven players are all but assured of returning next season: Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman, Nick Hardwick, Louis Vasquez, Brandyn Dombrowki, Scott Mruczkowski and Tyronne Green. If you add Clary to the mix, it leaves no room for a newcomer to step in and make an impact.
The Chargers could let Clary walk and draft a tackle to compete with Dombrowski. Keep in mind that Corey Clark is still around and could be in the mix, as well. Nonetheless, the most likely scenario involves bringing back Clary since GM A.J. Smith places a premium on creating competition.
Osgood wants nothing more than the chance to contribute as a receiver. But will there be any market for a 30-year-old receiver who hasn't caught more than two passes in a season since 2004? Osgood's sole value comes on special teams, where his efforts in kick coverage have him going to the Pro Bowl for the third time. But it's certainly possible a team will promise him a chance to compete on offense if only to pilfer his special-teams services.
Losing Osgood, who will be an unrestricted free agent, wouldn't be the worst thing. The Chargers have plenty of promising special-teams players, including rookies C.J. Spillman and James Holts, and sacrificing Osgood would open a spot for 2007 first-round pick Buster Davis on the game day roster. Davis could be the type of evasive slot receiver the team was missing in 2009.
The Chargers traded for Johnson for two reasons: 1) they were perilously thin on the defensive line; and 2) they wanted a one-year audition before deciding whether to re-sign him. Unfortunately, Johnson's audition season was marred by a nagging groin injury and the fact that he played alongside street free-agents all season.
San Diego's defensive line could get crowded next season with three players coming off injured-reserve: Jamal Williams, Ryon Bingham and Ogemdi Nwagbuo. Also, Smith figures to invest at least one high draft pick on the D-line. Nonetheless, it would behoove the Chargers to offer Johnson a short-term contract and see how he can perform when healthy and part of a more productive rotation. As the team learned this season, you can never have too many defensive linemen.
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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. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.