As teams retooled their rosters in the first moments of free agency, the Chargers unsurprisingly took a more subtle approach.
Some teams needed quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or top line offensive linemen. Some needed players who could sack the quarterback or lock down on the outside. Those are the signings that get most of the attention — and cost the most dollars.
The Chargers’ approach hasn’t been as flashy. In the first official day of free agency, the team kept a pair of key reserves and found themselves a tight end who is known more for his blocking.
But Thursday? That’s when the Chargers could make the most impactful move of their offseason.
The team is set to host former Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski for a visit as they try to determine the best way to fix a stadium-sized deficiency on special teams.
Janikowski, 40, missed all of last season in Oakland with a back injury. But if he’s physically able, he’s been one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL.
A first-round pick in 2000, Janikowski has improved with age, hitting 83.3 percent of his field goals since 2008. However, a poor 2016 from distance — Janikowski went three of eight from 50 or more yards — combined with the back injury helped convince the Raiders to move on in 2018.
Even as he struggled from deep in 2016, Janikowski was still accurate everywhere else. He missed only one attempt inside 50 yards and two extra points in 39 tries.
If the Chargers had a kicker with that level of accuracy a year ago, they almost certainly would’ve made the postseason instead of being edged out in a tiebreaker.
Solving the problem at kicker is among the team’s top priorities before training camp. The team also has former second-round kicker Roberto Aguayo under contract to compete for the kicking job and could address the position in the upcoming draft.
The Chargers also made a handful of smaller moves Wednesday, headlined by re-upping with safety Adrian Phillips and offensive tackle Michael Schofield.
Phillips, who agreed to a one-year deal, helped reshape the team’s defense on second and third down by essentially acting as an undersized linebacker. Schofield, who the team is keeping for two years, started for the Chargers at right tackle when Joe Barksdale was injured. Schofield also can play guard.
The new contract caps an exciting month for Schofield, who was in South Korea watching his fiance, Kendall Coyne, win a gold medal with the U.S. women’s hockey team.
The Chargers also officially placed a second-round tender on wide receiver Tyrell Williams and a right-of-first-refusal tender on pass-rush specialist Chris McCain.
Former Denver tight end Virgil Green became the lone outside free agent to join the roster on the first official day of free agency, signing a three-year contract. Green, known as a tremendous blocker, caught only 14 passes last season. His presence should reduce the blocking load placed on tight end Hunter Henry, who is a big part of the team’s passing attack.
The Chargers still have a decision to make regarding unrestricted free agent tight end Antonio Gates.