The Chargers waived 16 players on Tuesday, getting their roster to 53 by the 1 p.m. Pacific deadline.
Among the moves included the release of kicker Michael Badgley in favor of Tristan Vizcaino; the release of wide receivers Tyron Johnson and Joe Reed; and an undrafted free agent rookie making the initial 53: linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga.
All nine selections from the Chargers' 2021 draft class also made the initial 53. After practice, head coach Brandon Staley discussed what went into certain decisions and the silver lining to an otherwise difficult day around the NFL.
"The guys that we had to have some tough conversations with, just thanking them and being appreciative for them," Staley said. "Then, giving them something in their game, specifically, to take away. I thought that was really important.
"You also know that these things have a way of coming back around, too. The NFL is such a small circle — just during camp we've had guys come back. Just always staying on the high side. I enjoyed today, even though it was a tough day."
Watch the press conference below for Staley's thoughts on getting to the initial 53-man roster. Here are three takeaways:
Vizcaino gets the kicking job
The Chargers will enter the 2021 season with a new kicker. Staley said it was a difficult conversation with Badgley — who spent the previous three seasons as L.A.'s kicker — because the competition was so even during camp.
"Ultimately, what convinced me, [General Manager] Tom [Telesco], and our coaching staff about Tristan was that this guy has real talent," Staley said. "This guy has real leg strength. We feel like he has a lot of ability. He's at the beginning of his football journey. We felt that if there's a product in there, that if we continue to tap into that development, that there's a really talented player there. Then, the kickoff aspect of the job was really important. We feel like he has a really special kickoff leg."
Vizcaino, who grew up rooting for the Chargers, will now kick at SoFi Stadium, roughly 50 miles from where he grew up in Chino Hills.
"They made the right choice because I know how much work I've put in — how much practice and time I've put in," he said. "I've surrounded myself with the right people and I'm ready for this opportunity."
UDFA makes the cut
The Chargers' track record of identifying undrafted free agents continued as Ogbongbemiga showed enough this offseason — and in August — to make the initial 53. Here's what Staley had to say about the linebacker from Oklahoma State:
"This guy is instinctive," Staley said. "He can really see the game. If you said what stands out, that stands out. When something is happening, this guys is on top of it. He's a commander. To be a rookie, and for him to have the aptitude within our scheme already, I think that just shows you how his brain works. He has size. This guy is big. He can run for his size. He's long with long arms. We just feel like there's a product to work with there, not only as a linebacker but on special teams, that he can be a big factor in those interior core jobs on special teams. He's the right guy to be coaching, from a developmental standpoint."
Ogbongbemiga said that while it was a surprise to go undrafted, he stayed humble, put his head down and went to work. It paid off.
The first person he told upon learning he made the initial 53 was his brother.
"He's been there throughout this whole process," Ogbongbemiga said. "He trained me when I went back for July break. We went after it, we worked. I was up in Canada working, running up mountains. It was smokey because of fires in the provinces next to me, so I couldn't breathe. I had my helmet on, dying out there. But it was all for a reason. I knew it was all for a reason. I woke up every day and went after it; just attacked each and every day. Here I am."
Bolts keep five WRs
The Chargers have five wide receivers on their initial 53: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Joshua Palmer and K.J. Hill. Here's Staley on the decision to release both Johnson and Reed:
"It was a tough one, a really tough one," he said. "T-Billy has done a lot for this team in the past and he did some good things for us in camp. That was one of the tougher conversations that I had today. I think that we have a really deep receiver room. There's a lot of competition. I think that it's just one of things where it's more numbers, not so much how we feel about him as a player, because I have a lot of respect for his game. Just where we're at from a numbers standpoint, and then the kicking game, being a big aspect of those back-end receiver roles. Just felt like going in this direction would be the right direction for us right now."
"The receiver room, as we talked about during camp is just super competitive," Staley said. "What ended up happening for him, too, was, just from a return standpoint, he didn't get a chance those last two weeks to really express himself because he got hurt. Where we were at with receiver, and where we are at with returner, just didn't feel like that was going to be the direction for us. It's not over for him. He's a good player. He still has his career out in front of him. Hopefully, we can get him healthy here and see where it goes."
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