With Takeo Spikes out of the picture now, the Chargers have opened a hole at inside linebacker. Demorrio Williams and Gary Guyton are both free agents this season, too. So where do the Chargers go from here?
1st scenario: Re-sign Williams, let Donald Butler have a chance to step up.
Williams finished with 51 combined tackles and 2 interceptions last season. He’s an eight-year veteran with 620 combined tackles, 5 forced fumbles, and 7 interceptions under his belt. He could provide a leadership role, if nothing else. Butler has shown promise over the past two years, despite an injury in 2010. He’s racked up 173 combined tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions in just 28 games. The Chargers are likely to offer Butler an extension before his contract expires in 2014, showing that the staff has faith in his abilities.
2nd scenario: Re-sign Williams, sign a free agent ILB
There aren’t any “great” linebackers on the market come March 12th for the Chargers to look at. Rey Maualuga leads the free agent class of inside backers with other guys like Bart Scott, Keith Brooking, and Stewart Bradley on the list. This scenario would likely hurt the Chargers in the long run. They just released an older linebacker who was due too much money. No names on this list jump out, so I wouldn’t look for them to spend money on any of these guys.
3rd scenario: Let Williams walk, draft an ILB, let Butler step up
This is probably the scenario that I like best. The Chargers will likely address the offensive line needs in the top part of the draft but they could look for a backer in the later rounds. Kiko Alonso from Oregon might be a nice pickup in maybe the 4th round. Alonso had a great senior season in which he recorded 181 tackles, 14 for a loss, 4 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. Another pickup even later could be Steve Greer from Virginia. Greer recorded 122 tackles and 2 sacks his senior season. He had a solid East-West game and could be seen as a sleeper in the draft.
4th scenario: Do nothing
The Chargers have some young guys on the roster who could jump at the chance to step up. Bront Bird is mainly a special teams guy who ended last season on injured reserve after making the team from the practice squad. Jonas Mouton is another young guy who is taking a littler longer to progress.
The Chargers are most likely going to be looking at free agency or in the NFL Draft for the next Mike Linebacker. Whoever they get to step in and replace Spikes, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be a big name player but rather a player who can become a role player. We won’t know until March 12th or until the draft.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Welch1048.