If the Chargers intend to give Rivers a chance to rediscover his form under a new coaching staff -- the most likely scenario -- more must be done to help him succeed. It starts on the offensive line, where starting guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green will become free agents and starting tackles Jared Gaither and Jeromey Clary are strong candidates to be released. Of the four, Vasquez is the most likely to return.
The Chargers have some good prospects on board, including Johnnie Troutman and Steve Schilling, but this unit must be addressed multiple times via free agency and the draft. San Diego could look at Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan's Eric Fisher.
WR Robert Meachem
Chuch Cook/USA Today Sports
On defense, the primary issues are in the secondary, where starting cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason are slated to hit free agency. Cason has played well enough to return so long as the price is right. He is not a No. 1 CB. Jammer could be back, but possibly at strong safety, a position that has been a disaster ever since Rodney Harrison left town.
Other noteworthy free agents on defense include Shaun Phillips, Vaughn Martin, Aubrayo Franklin and Antwan Barnes.
In all, the Chargers are likely to part ways with between six and 10 players who were starters this season.
Also, some recent high draft picks will be on short leashes, including Larry English, Jonas Mouton and Marcus Gilchrist. Those are A.J. Smith's guys, a label that will no longer protect them.
The same theory applies to Ryan Mathews, who Smith paid a steep price to acquire in 2010. The next general manager, be it Jimmy Raye or someone else, does not have to wait around for Mathews to finally justify that investment. Mathews will most likely be back for a fourth season, but his margin for error will be razor thin.
Will the Bolts finally shore up their offensive line? 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.