Cutthroat Calls

The San Diego Chargers are not expected to be major players in the free agent market this spring. That is because, for the first time in a long time, the Chargers simply do not have that many holes to fill. In fact, the Chargers will likely be more occupied reworking the contracts of their own players than anything else.

While A.J. Smith has said that the team is currently working on new contracts for many returning players, the team also has its share of old contracts from which it would like to free itself. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the players who may be playing elsewhere in 2005.

Wide Receiver Tim Dwight

A.J. Smith is normally the most tight-lipped general manager in the game. So when he comes out and repeatedly says the team needs a kick returner, it meant Tim Dwight's days in San Diego were numbered and the announcement came on Tuesday. With Reche Caldwell and Eric Parker emerging and Keenan McCardell providing a steady, veteran presence, Dwight's contributions in the receiving department are no longer needed. With the team looking for a returner, Dwight became the odd man out. He was a team leader and his release will upset fans who came to adore his spirit and courage. The team may end up regretting the dismissal of Dwight.

Quarterback Doug Flutie

Flutie is in trouble because he may no longer have a shot at the number two spot on the depth chart. If Drew Brees signs his tender any time soon, then both he and Rivers will be under contract well in advance of training camp, and neither would be actively tangled in any trade talks. While Flutie may still be football's best closing pitcher, the team will not pay a steep veteran salary for a number three quarterback, especially with Cleo Lemon under contract as well.

Nose Tackle Jason Fisk

Fisk was signed to play tackle in the team's old 4-3 defense, and is a poor fit in the new 3-4 alignment. While he played surprising well behind the dominant Jamal Williams, he lacks the size to step in as a starter should Williams get hurt, and injuries are all too common in the NFL. Also, Ryon Bingham is set to make a healthy return next season. Bingham is heavier, stronger, younger and cheaper than Fisk. This should be a no-brainer.

Defensive End Adrian Dingle

Health and lack of production could mean the end of Dingle. As it was made clear that the team is seeking a return man, they also crave defensive ends that can play in the 3-4, witnessed by the focus on the position during the Senior Bowl. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer was reluctant to use Dingle throughout the year and there is no telling if his health will be a problem heading into 2005. That could force the Chargers to speed up the exile process and get a better fit for their defensive scheme.

These cuts will not only create roster space, but a smidgeon of salary cap space as well. So as a means to that end, the team will likely be cutting one or more of these veteran players. As opposed to last year, when the team's mantra in free agency was addition by subtraction, this year the team had better hope that a few small subtractions do not add up in a big way.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@sandiegosports.net

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