The Chargers kicked off free agency with a whimper, which should've been expected given Tom Telesco…
Bolts Notebook: 3/7
The cliche, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," is never more applicable than when describing NFL free agency. As such, expect San Diego's new coaches to try to bring some familiar faces along with them to Southern California.
One name that has been tossed around a lot is Andy Levitre, who spent his first four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. There he played under offensive line coaches Joe D'Alessandris and Andrew Dees, who are now with the Lightning Bolts. Levitre, a second-round pick out of Oregon State in 2009, is a durable and consistent starter who could replace free agent LG Tyronne Green.
Another free agent to monitor is S Jim Leonhard, who spent last season in Denver with secondary coach Ron Milus, who now holds the same position in San Diego. An eight-year veteran who has also spent time with the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens, Leonhard played in every game last season -- primarily as a reserve -- and finished with 18 tackles and two INTs, both of which came courtesy Philip Rivers.
Don't forget new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt when it comes to looking for former connections. His list may include RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, a dangerous kick returner and third-down back, and Steve Breaston, the explosive slot receiver who spent the 2007-2010 seasons with Whisenhunt in Arizona.
Turning the Page
A couple of prominent former Chargers are entering the next phases of their careers.
Former general manager A.J. Smith, who digressed from idiot savant to plain-old idiot over the course of his decade-long tenure, accepted an executive role with the Washington Redskins. He will work with his son, Kyle, who has been an area scout for the Skins over the last couple years. When Smith agreed to work under owner Daniel Snyder, it is clear he did not seek references from former coaches Norv Turner and Marty Schottenheimer, both of whom had very negative experiences with Snyder.
Also moving on is Shawne Merriman, who lived up to his "Lights Out" monicker by posting 39.5 sacks during his first three seasons with the Chargers (2005-2007). His career fell off quickly after that, however, due to an Achilles injury and possibly the fallout from a failed drug test. He spent the last two-and-a-half seasons in Buffalo, recording just two sacks during his time with the Bills.
Merriman announced his retirement on Wednesday. Ironically, his early success was one of the reasons A.J. Smith was once viewed so highly in San Diego.
--There seems to be a general consensus the Chargers need help at wide receiver. I don't buy it. True, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal disappointed in their first go-round with the Chargers. But San Diego still has Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander (a restricted free agent who will return) and Vincent Brown, who is recovered from the ankle injury that cost him all of last season. Seyi Ajirotutu and Michael Spurlock also did more than enough to prove deserving of an extended look.
--Centeral Michigan OT Eric Fisher has been moving up draft boards, as expected, and it may be a reach to expect him to be available at No. 11. That means Chargers fans must hold their collective breath and hope that Oklahoma's Lane Johnson falls that far. There is a drop-off after the top three, with Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel the clear-cut No. 1. The next best tackle, according to Scout.com's Draft Top 100, is Alabama's D.J. Fluker.
What are your thoughts on Merriman's time in SD? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is 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 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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