A.J. Smith, general manager of the San Diego Chargers watches practice drills during Chargers minicamp at the team's training facility on May 3, 2009 in San Diego, California.
The Chargers' plan for this offseason is as elaborate as a spider web in a corn maze.
On Tuesday, general manager A.J. Smith pulled the first thread.
Calling it the “first order of business,” Smith placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on wide receiver Vincent Jackson, a move that ensures Jackson — barring an aggressive move from another team — will play for the Chargers in 2011.
Only it is not that simple. With the NFL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expiring Mar. 4, nothing about this offseason is, so Smith and the Chargers are evolving.
Last week, team management, cognizant of different potential CBA developments, mapped out an equally complex network of courses of action for every player on their roster.
For example, in a new CBA, Tuesday's franchise tag may become obsolete.
The tag was Jackson's Plan A. A new CBA by Mar. 4 could force a predetermined Plan B.
“We do things Plan A and Plan B so we can kick it around,” Smith said. “And when the time comes and it's time to go to work in reality and execute those things, we will. My goodness, I don't even know — as we go to the fourth — we could have a complete shutdown where we won't be doing anything. We are just preparing for which way this thing goes.”
The same goes for the Chargers' other players in contract limbo.
Over the coming weeks, Smith is monitoring whether some of the team's unrestricted free agents will become restricted free agents under a new CBA.
Either way, the team has the answer to every forthcoming personnel question.
If a player remains unrestricted, will the Chargers actively pursue a new contract? Will they step back and steer the player toward first testing the open market? Will they go in a different direction?
If a player becomes restricted, will the Chargers tender him? If so, what draft picks and dollar signs will they assign to the tender? Will they go in a different direction?
“You have a lot of your preliminary thoughts, and you're ready to go at a moment's notice,” Smith said. “You find out what's going on, and we go to work five minutes later. I just don't want to say, 'OK, well here are the rules. Let's have another meeting.'”
This offseason is full of meetings.
The Chargers are done.
Waiting in a web. Ready to pull thread.