Chargers sign undrafted free agents

As soon as the NFL Draft ends, fans go back to their lives, leaving the den to see their wife for the first time of the weekend but the San Diego Chargers are still hard at work securing undrafted free agents and that has begun, including bringing in a quarterback that they thought about drafting.

"They are in the process of acquiring free agents," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said of the relentless work of the scouting department. "I rely on the fact that our personnel staff has done a terrific job in the past."

The Bolts have always been active on the undrafted free agent market and are an attractive team to catch on with because they give any player who comes in a chance.

The list of undrafted players that have made an impact with the team include Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates, wide receiver and special teams demon Kassim Osgood, wide receiver Malcom Floyd, safety Robb Butler, defensive end Jacques Cesaire, linebacker Stephen Cooper, and offensive guard Kris Dielman.

"Our football organization has shown a willingness and a desire to give free agents an opportunity to make our football team," Schottenheimer added. "We bring young men in here that fit our style of play and have the character. Every guy gets a chance to compete. You find a way to get the best players you can in any given year."

Already, the Chargers have pulled the trigger and signed several from the ranks of the undrafted.

Linebacker Marques Harris from Southern Utah, a Colorado transfer, led his team with 11 sacks, had 68 tackles and 25 for a loss.

Harris said he fielded offers from Jacksonville, Dallas and Green Bay, but that San Diego offered a three-year contract worth the most money. He said he's looking forward to being reacquainted with another player the Bolts signed, Craig Ochs.

"It'll be nice knowing somebody there, and Craig is a great guy and a great person, so it always helps going to a new place to know a person like him," Harris said.

Montana quarterback Craig Ochs, a transfer from Colorado, had been tracked by the Chargers all week and they even considered spending a late round pick on him and called him five times on Sunday. Ochs threw for 3,807 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.

Toledo wide receiver Kenny Higgins, 6-foot-1, 184 pounds, was a JuCo transfer that caught 46 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns.

Wisconsin-Lacrosse fullback Matt Pagel finished the year with 52 carries for 249 yards and two touchdowns, missing five games due to a sprained foot. At 5-foot-11, 240 pounds, Pagel also possesses good speed for his size.

Matthew Tant of Vanderbilt declared early for the draft after rushing for 109 yards on 26 attempts in 2004. At 5-foot-11, 238 pounds, he is in the mix at fullback.

"Minutes after the draft, I was talking to the Chargers and getting excited about being in their camp. They have one of the best fullbacks in Lorenzo Neal, and also have one other on their roster. But I think they are looking to groom another fullback," Tant said. "When I get there, I'm going to show them I'm willing to do whatever is necessary, including special teams."

The Bolts had tried to secure Russ Rabe, a linebacker who they strongly considered drafting, even calling the prospect to tell him they would take him in the seventh round, but Rabe signed with New Orleans.

The team expects to sign 20 players total from the ranks of the undrafted and each year several make the team. This year figures to be no different.


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