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Free agency may seem calm compared to last year

Posted Mar 8, 2012

League-wide free agency begins Tuesday. Though the Chargers are expected to make plenty of news, free agency may seem tame compared to last year’s rush following the player lockout.

SAN DIEGO – The 2012 league year and free agency opens Tuesday.

Expect a rush of moves around the NFL, followed by steady patter until a few weeks before April’s draft. But it may seem like child’s play to General Manager A.J. Smith, Assistant General Manager Ed McGuire and executives around the league compared with last year’s sudden frenzy days before training camp.

San Diego signed 45 players between July 26 and August 3 as the NFL and NFLPA reached a labor agreement as assembling rosters and launching training camp practices happened concurrently.

The Chargers retained 14 of their own free agents, an important figure after labor negotiations eliminated organized offseason work. Many of those players were standouts last season.

Free safety Eric Weddle, one of the team’s highest priorities and a coveted free agent, signed a five-year deal with San Diego and promptly became a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro player.

Receiver Vincent Jackson signed the Chargers’ one-year Franchise offer and returned to the Pro Bowl. Receiver Malcom Floyd signed a two-year deal and put up statistics as explosive and efficient as any receiver in the NFL in his nine starts. After re-signing, outside linebacker Antwan Barnes led the team with 11 sacks, Mike Tolbert earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors, caught 54 passes and scored 10 touchdowns, and players like right tackle Jeromey Clary, tight end Randy McMichael and quarterback Billy Volek held significant roles.

San Diego also signed newcomers Takeo Spikes, who led the team with 119 tackles at inside linebacker and became the defensive captain, and Travis LaBoy, who started 14 games at outside linebacker.

“I am very proud of the front office, scouting department and coaching staff. Everyone had input into this plan,” Smith said following the signing period. “But the most valuable player of this operation, without a doubt, is Ed McGuire. He balanced a lot of things effectively and fast.”

The Chargers also signed Colin Baxter, Bront Bird and Darryl Gamble as college free agents in the last few days of July, all of whom played for San Diego last season and remain with the team.

News will spill forth fast in the next two weeks for San Diego, but nothing like last year’s truncated fireworks show. The Chargers already have announced Pro Bowl left guard Kris Dielman’s retirement, released defensive end Luis Castillo and decided against using the Franchise tag on Jackson, though the team remains interested in re-signing the latter two players.

Other Chargers who will become free agents March 13 unless they sign with San Diego before then include center Nick Hardwick, left tackle Jared Gaither, Tolbert, McMichael, Jacob Hester, Antonio Garay, Steve Gregory and Tommie Harris.

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