As we’ve mentioned here in weeks past, the talented WR is likely to be willing to agree to a discount to remain with the Chargers, but just how much and whether it will be cheap enough for the team still remains to be seen. Both Horton and Schefter agree that odds-on favorite is still San Diego.
Should he depart, Horton likes the chances of the Bears, Browns, Jaguars, and Patriots (though the tagging of Wes Welker could impact the financial feasibility of such a signing), while Schefter adds Minnesota, San Francisco, and Carolina to the list of potential suitors.
Scanning the list, it’s easy to see why Jackson might prefer staying with San Diego. The system suits Jackson well, and he would partner with Rivers for years to come. Jackson would join top quarterbacks if he moved to Chicago or the Patriots, but even a move to New England would have to have him wondering about how many years he’d play with QB Tom Brady, who is currently 34. The Browns, Jaguars, Vikings, and even the 49ers are definite downgrades in terms of his statistical prospects.
“Jared has got everything going in the right direction now,” said Kevin Pompey, Gaither’s agent. “He’s excited about the Chargers. If that doesn’t work out, then we look forward to free agency. The fact that they want him back is a very positive thing.”
The Chargers would love to retain Gaither, as the oft-injured Marcus McNeill is likely to be released in coming days, but this is hardly the best year to be attempting to sign a hot-topic OT. The free agent market at the position is incredibly weak, and even if Levi Brown joins him, Gaither would be a top option on the open market.
GM A.J. Smith has historically let top options test the market for a while before re-signing his players, but these two could be the top options at their positions, so the tactic is a risky one. If Gaither gets away, it seems that the Chargers would be forced to address the tackle position early in the draft, whereas if they lose Jackson, there is still decent talent available through free agency, and the cap room to reel it in.