Rosario, Bigby Will Prove to be Steals

The Chargers have made splashy additions in free agency, from former first-rounder Robert Meachem to two-time All Pro Le'Ron McClain to erstwhile Ravens enforcer Jarret Johnson. But two underrated pickups, Dante Rosario and Atari Bigby, may become the difference-makers the team is seeking.

Chargers fans remember Dante Rosario best from the 2008 season opener, when he entered Qualcomm Stadium as a member of the Carolina Panthers and authored a career day with seven receptions for 96 yards, including the game-winning score with no time left on the clock.

I remember Rosario best from his 2010 campaign. That year, while still publisher of SDBoltReport.com, I also served as publisher of PantherInsider.com. I watched every one of Rosario's games that season (painful as it was to watch that Jimmy Clausen-led offense) and, believe me, the kid can play.

The Chargers have always liked the idea of having a No. 3 tight end that's basically a receiver in a bigger body. Players like Josh Norman and Ryan Krause have tried to fill the role over the years with middling results. Rosario has a chance to be the one to finally turn potential into productivity.

He has underrated speed and can beat one-on-one coverage. He fights for the football and can make the tough catch in traffic. He is also a terrific option on third downs and hot reads; even when he does not look open, he often is. His ability to sneak out on backside screens is another trait Norv Turner will love utilizing.

Look for San Diego to keep four tight ends, as Kory Sperry is another developmental player with a bright future. With Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael on board, as well, San Diego is happy knowing it has the best tight end depth in the league. That is almost mandatory at this point given Gates' history of foot problems.


SS Atari Bigby
Otto Greule Jr./Getty
Speaking of depth, that is all the Chargers sought when they inked Atari Bigby to a two-year deal. Steve Gregory had just departed for New England and San Diego did not want to head into the draft with one strong safety on the roster (that being special teams ace Darrell Stuckey).

But Bigby has a shot to be an impact player. There are not a lot of road blocks on his path to playing time, seeing as the Chargers have no entrenched starter at strong safety and are also looking to replace their nickel back after letting go of CB Dante Hughes (San Diego, unlike many other squads, has shown a willingness to use a safety as a nickel back because of the added versatility).

Bigby, who has started 10 or more games only twice in his career, has shown he can produce when given the snaps. In 2007, he started all 16 games and posted 86 tackles, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and nine pass breakups. In 2009, he started 11 of his 13 games played and had 49 tackles, four picks and eight pass breakups.

Bigby will also be an asset on special teams. The Chargers have made significant progress in that realm but are wary of taking a step back after seeing Mike Tolbert and Gregory defect. Another special teams ace, Jacob Hester, remains unsigned.

Bigby had 10 tackles on special teams last season for the Seahawks.

Bigby and Rosario aren't headliners, something that will not change any time soon. But their combined 2012 cap number is less than $1.5 million, setting them up to be the biggest steals of San Diego's busy offseason.



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Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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