Personnel Decisions Await Chargers

Free agency begins March 13

Two months separate the start of NFL free agency.

For the Chargers' decision makers, it begins with a game of 20 questions.

Twenty players are scheduled to become free agents March 13 at 1 p.m. PST, a long list composed of 12 offensive and seven defensive players and one special teamer. Sixteen of the players will be unrestricted free agents, barring the usage of a franchise or transition tag.

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and his personnel team will make their annual retreat in the days following the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, evaluating the organization and designing the roster direction.

Player discussions will include those unrestricted: Stephen Cooper, Patrick Crayton, Na’il Diggs, Antonio Garay, Jared Gaither, Steve Gregory, Nick Hardwick, Tommie Harris, Jacob Hester, Vincent Jackson, Randy McMichael, Tony Moll, Scott Mruczkowski, Paul Oliver, Bob Sanders and Mike Tolbert.

All but Cooper started at least one game this season. Unrestricted players are free to negotiate and sign with other teams.

The fly on the wall is listening up for Jackson's name. The franchise is expected to explore long-term contract discussions with the wide receiver this offseason, as team sources say Smith was been personally impressed with the veteran's conduct.

Jackson faced separate legal problems related to driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license earlier in his career, and in turn, the Chargers "hadn't been real comfortable" to commit before further evaluation, team sources said.

In light of his conduct since and the league certainty provided by last summer's collective bargaining agreement, that comfort has grown.

Tight end Kory Sperry and tackle-guard Brandyn Dombrowski are restricted free agents. The Chargers can offer a one-year tender, affording themselves the right to refusal if an outside team presents either an offer sheet. The Chargers would be compensated, based on tender value, in the draft.

Long snapper Mike Windt and wide receiver/returner Richard Goodman, with less than three years accrued in the league, are exclusive-rights free agents. No outside team can enter contract discussions if the Chargers tender them; otherwise, they can sign with any team.

Next month's internal discussions will also be key in determining the futures of kickers Nate Kaeding and Nick Novak.

Should they choose, the Chargers are positioned to let both compete during training camp; Kaeding and Novak are under contract through 2012. The team is unwilling, however, to roster both during the season, team sources said.

Kaeding, whose season ended with a knee injury on the opening kickoff, is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He said last week he expects to resume kicking field goals again later this month and doesn't anticipate a camp competition.

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