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First look at Chargers' 2016 free agents

SAN DIEGO – In this ESPN Insider piece, NFL Insider Mike Sando puts together his All-Contract-Year team.

Although that list does not include a player from the current roster of the San Diego Chargers, I thought we’d take this opportunity to look at the Chargers' salary-cap situation heading into Year 4 under general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy.

The Chargers have 16 players set to become unrestricted free agents once the free-agency period begins in March.

According to ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton, the Chargers carried over $2.28 million in cap space from last year.

And with a projected cap of around $155 million in 2016, the Chargers will have a little over $38 million in salary-cap space heading into this year’s free agency period.

As John Spanos, president of football operations, stated earlier this week, the Chargers have some flexibility to fix the team’s issues on the field through the draft and free agency.

The Chargers can release underperforming inside linebacker Donald Butler this year. He’s due a $12 million option bonus on the fifth day of the 2017 league year -- $2.4 million of that would count against this year’s salary cap.

However, cutting Butler is basically a wash because the team would save $4.65 million in cash and have a total of $4.6 million in dead money from Butler’s contract.

The Chargers also can save $3.5 million in cash by moving on from punter Mike Scifres, and $3 million in cash by releasing running back Donald Brown.

Veteran players Eric Weddle, receiver Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates top San Diego’s list of free agents. Weddle obviously is not coming back to San Diego after the way the season ended for him, and Floyd is retiring. But Gates has indicated he would like to play another season.

Other players whose production warrants a closer look include right tackle Joe Barksdale, defensive end Kendall Reyes and cornerback Patrick Robinson.

Barksdale, 28, is the only offensive linemen to start every game for the Chargers this season, playing a total of 1,050 snaps on offense, second only to Philip Rivers (1,085). It’s the most snaps played in a single season by a San Diego offensive linemen since at least 2007, which is as far back as ESPN Stats & Information has been tracking those stats.

Barksdale also played in 16 games for a third straight season. He provides versatility, spending time at right tackle, left tackle and right guard for the Chargers this season.

“I still feel like there’s things I have to get better at, things I could have done to help the team,” Barksdale said. “And that’s what I’ll be focused on this offseason, along with spending time with my wife.”

Barksdale was a good value for the Chargers, earning just over $1 million dollars on a one-year deal. By comparison, left tackle King Dunlap and left guard Orlando Franklin played a combined six games together as starters and made $19 million in 2015.

Reyes, 26, led all San Diego defensive linemen in combined tackles (32) and quarterback hits (11). He finished with two sacks and an interception. Reyes’ play during the final six games helped in the improvement of San Diego’s defense during the backstretch of the 2015 campaign.

The University of Connecticut product hasn’t missed a game in four seasons.

“I’m just trying to figure out how this whole process works,” Reyes said about free agency. “We’ll take one day at a time and see what happens. I’d love to be here, but we’ll see how everything goes.”

Unrestricted free agents: T Joe Barksdale, QB Kellen Clemens, WR Malcom Floyd, TE Antonio Gates, TE Ladarius Green, T Chris Hairston, TE David Johnson, T Jeff Linkenbach, DE Ricardo Mathews, LB Joe Mays, TE John Phillips, DE Kendall Reyes, G Johnnie Troutman, CB Cassius Vaughn, C J.D. Walton, S Eric Weddle.

Restricted free agents: S Jahleel Addae, S Matt Daniels, CB Brandian Ross, DT Damion Square, G-T Kenny Wiggins.

Exclusive free agents: TE Asante Cleveland, WR Dontrelle Inman, OLB Cordarro Law.