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Pundits Offer Free Agency Tips for the Bolts

So much attention is paid league-wide around what goes on during the first day or two of free agency.

The Chargers have had success there, inking the likes of Russell Okung, Travis Benjamin and Brandon Mebane under General Manager Tom Telesco.

However, the Bolts have also had great success under Telesco in the all-important days and weeks that come after the initial wave of signings.

We're talking about the likes of Casey Hayward, Danny Woodhead, Patrick Robinson and so on, who all played pivotal roles during their career with the Bolts.

While those deals aren't met with the same fanfare, they are equally, if not more, important than the early signings.

According to Hall of Fame personnel man Bill Polian, that's an ideal free agency path for all teams, including the Bolts.

"As a general rule, you're going to get your difference makers in the draft," he said. "As a general rule, you're going to get your complementary players in pro scouting, whether it be free agency, waiver wire or trades.  More players come to you via the college scouting route than free agency (due to a) simple matter of money.  And generally speaking, early in free agency when prices are high, it's not the time to buy."

It should come as no surprise that the Chargers have abided and thrived under this philosophy.  After all, Telesco spent nearly two decades working under Polian in Carolina and Indianapolis.

Furthermore, each free agency period is different and unique unto its own. 

However, last week at the Combine, Telesco hinted at what may play out this year based on the dynamics of salary cap space throughout the league. 

"It's funny," he said. "There are about 15 teams who have an enormous amount of cap space.  And then there are the rest of us who have either some cap space or not a whole lot.  We have a little bit of cap space to work with, but I think people have to realize that it's not like we can use up all of that in unrestricted free agency.  There's a lot of stuff you have to budget for. But we are curious to see what the market goes for for certain positions this year because there are those teams with so much cap space which could affect the rest of us that don't have that much. 

"But also, when it comes to building your team and trying to get better in the offseason, there are a lot of ways to make your team better that do not involve signing someone on the first or second day of free agency.  Now we may do that, but it's a long process and there are a lot of moving parts to free agency."

What Polian says holds tremendous cache as a Hall of Fame GM. 

However, he isn't the only notable pundit who chimed in one what he thinks the Bolts should do in free agency.

"The way that Telesco and the front office has set up their team, it's set up for success," said Adam Caplan.  "The Chargers are set up so well, you don't have to go out and go crazy in free agency, which is a good thing.  You don't have to sign five or six free agents; probably two or three at most. But again, the Chargers are set up really well.  (Executive VP of Football Administration/Player Finance) Ed McGuire does an excellent job structuring contracts, so I think this thing is set up so well for the next couple years. I'm not picking the Chargers to win the Super Bowl, but you can see how this team can take the next jump.  I am picking them to win the division and take that next jump because it is positioned so well."

Caplan knows fans want teams to be active in free agency.  Still, he doubled-down in explaining why it is an approach that might not fit the Bolts, especially considering their salary cap situation.

"What I've learned from general managers over the years is that the teams that get so heavily involved in free agency are the ones that more often than not lose," he said.  "It's really setting things up in the draft that's important.  With the way the salary cap is, you're not going to dominate every position.  So you dip into free agency to help there, and I think that's what the Chargers will do.  I think they add two or three guys, at most."

We'll find out for sure soon enough as free agency begins Wednesday, March 14 at 1:00pm PST.

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