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Chargers are still looking for a free safety with former starter Tre Boston still unsigned

The way Tre Boston tells the story, he had just been released by the Carolina Panthers and had turned to prayer for direction.

He slipped into a gas station and met a man who asked for some money. His name was Mike Daniels, but his friends called him L.A.

Boston took the encounter as a sign from God, and accepted a one-year deal that turned out to be a blessing for the Chargers.

He appeared in every game and played nearly every snap in the 16-game season. As the starting free safety, he led the Chargers with five interceptions. He was a vocal leader in the locker room; a positive spirit. As of Wednesday, he’s still looking for a job. Boston is one of a handful of talented safeties still on the free-agent market.

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The Chargers don’t have a free safety under contract. San Francisco’s Eric Reid, Kansas City’s Ron Parker and Pittsburgh’s Mike Mitchell — all starting free safeties a season ago — also are looking for work. Strong safeties such as former New Orleans first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro haven’t had much luck, either.

“Tre came in a little late in the process and played 99% of the snaps for us,” Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said earlier this month at the NFL combine. “I don’t think he missed a day of practice. He had great enthusiasm on the field and in the locker room, made plays in the passing game. He had five interceptions. He probably could have had seven or eight. He came in and played really solid football for us.”

So why is he and so many other starting-level safeties still on the market? For starters, there are a lot of them.

Tyrann Mathieu found a home in Houston — the Chargers looked into signing him — and former Green Bay starter Morgan Burnett eventually landed in Pittsburgh, but the market’s been incredibly soft.

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In the Chargers’ defense, it’s a critical position responsible for covering the middle of the field in a Cover 3 scheme.

“It’s strange,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “It’s a very important position. It’s big part of our defense, I can tell you that. It was just weird — the first week of free agency went by and none of the safeties came off the board. Can’t say why.”

At this point, it seems as if teams with needs at that position are in a holding pattern, watching the prices drop on potential signings. The Chargers have had success going this route. For instance, they signed Dwight Lowery on a discount last season before scooping up Boston. And, with the draft a month away, focus is shifting away from free agency.

Smith visits Chargers

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A day after Lynn said Cardale Jones would get a look at backup quarterback, the team hosted former New York Jets and Giants quarterback Geno Smith for a visit, according to the NFL Network.

Smith, who was with the Jets when Lynn was on the staff, backed up Eli Manning for the Giants last season. He started one game, going 21 for 34 for 212 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Raiders.

In 35 career NFL games, 31 starts, Smith has thrown for 6,174 yards with 29 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

dan.woike@latimes.com

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Follow Dan Woike on Twitter @DanWoikeSports


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