SAN DIEGO ---- The Chargers could take an offensive guard in the first round of next week's 2012 NFL draft.
Several draft gurus have them doing just that, with Stanford's David DeCastro occupying the No. 18 spot on mock drafts across the internet. A few more have eyed Georgia's Cordy Glenn.
Hey, anything's possible.
The probability of such a move seems slim, less by what the Chargers say than what they've done. They loaded up on offense during the early free-agent period, signing 11 offensive players in a crop of 16 unrestricted free agents.
That happened despite a vocal claim to strengthen the defense this offseason. That would seem to come through the draft, especially with the No. 18 and No. 49 overall picks.
"We're looking at the draft defensively. That's true," Chargers general manager A. J. Smith said. "But more importantly, we're looking for good players that fit into what we do strategically. The free-agent activity was due to a reaction to players we lost. It was also due to the largest and deepest free agent class in the history of the NFL. We expected that and we planned for it financially. Quality veterans are still out there, including defenders in trade and free agency as the market value drops."
As cryptic as ever this time of year, Smith wouldn't eliminate any position but a kicker and a punter. While offensive guard Kris Dielman has retired, Smith admitted that fourth-year pro Tyronne Green is penciled in as the starter at left guard. Equally young Louis Vasquez is expected to start on the right.
The team doesn't have a starting strong safety on the roster. They need a pass-rushing outside linebacker of the future. They need a nose tackle and more young depth at end. Another cornerback couldn't hurt.
It also seems to fall in that that there are several solid defenders to choose from in this draft.
"There are a lot of positions of great defensive depth, from outside and inside linebacker to corner," director of player personnel Jimmy Raye said. "It's a strong defensive line draft, too. It's thin at safety, but that isn't new. There are a lot of directions we could go in terms of defense, and it's hard to deny that it's our focus in this draft."
The Chargers have several needs, probably more than in recent seasons. Smith has said time and again the improvements must be made on that side of the ball. Thus far, the Chargers haven't done much. They have added quality in outside linebacker Jarrett Johnson and retained quality depth with end Luis Castillo and nose tackle Antonio Garay. Inside linebacker Demorrio Williams will add depth at the position and safety Atari Bigby should fill a reserve role.
Additions, however, are necessary.
"People were getting caught up in my saying that unless we fix the defense, we're not going to win a world championship," Smith said. "Everyone had their scorecards out and saw that offense was overwhelming the defense ... but there's a long time between now and August."
As always, Smith is leaving his options open. Even to a guard in the first round.
While the back end of free agency remains and several well-known players are left unsigned, the draft is the main source of player acquisition before training camp.