A Smith-eriffic offseason

The Chargers made their first dip into the free agent pool when they signed former Panthers safety Marlon McCree. And although McCree is a very good player, this signing goes to show that general manager A.J. Smith...

...just doesn't get it.

Last offseason, Smith made safety Bhawoh Jue his sole free agent acquisition. This year he made McCree his primary target. What he has yet to realize is that safety is not exactly a premium position. Smith has worked diligently to carve out ample cap room, and has yet to realize how to capitalize on that luxury.

The Chargers are still approximately $23 million under the cap, and yet vital areas of need such as offensive tackle continue to be ignored. But for whatever reason, Smith prefers to address these positions on the second day of the draft. That is why picks have been wasted on players like Carlos Joseph and Wesley Britt.

What Smith needs to realize is that elite tackles are a rare find on the second day of the draft, while dominating safeties routinely fall that low. If he wants a player who can protect Philip Rivers and open running lanes for LaDainian Tomlinson, then Smith is going to have to pay for him. If he were to use the team's cap space on such a worthy cause, he could then use a few of those day-two draft picks on positions of lesser importance, like safety.

The other mystifying aspect of the McCree signing is that the Chargers already have several solid players at the position. First, there is Jue, who last season won the starting job at free safety and finished the season with 54 tackles and three interceptions. Starting opposite Jue is Terrence Kiel, a former second-round pick who had over 120 total tackles in 2004. Then there's Hanik Milligan, who played in the 2006 Pro Bowl as the AFC's special teams representative. Finally, there's Clinton Hart, a recipient of a new three-year contract earlier this offseason.

It is difficult to analyze the job Smith is doing without relating it to his ongoing feud with coach Marty Schottenheimer. It has been speculated that Smith would prefer his own coach, but Schottenheimer would undoubtedly prefer his own general manager as well. After all, Smith is the one that signed or drafted over 75 percent of the starting secondary, the same secondary he is working so hard to overhaul once again. His latest signing, McCree, will only replace one of Smith's earlier signings.

So even though McCree is a good player, his signing highlights many of Smith's shortcomings as a general manager. The time is now for him to figure things out, or to find his way out.

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