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Tristan Vizcaino was kicked around NFL before replacing Chargers’ Michael Badgley

 Chargers kicker Tristan Vizcaino watches from the sideline.
Tristan Vizcaino has won the Chargers’ placekicking job as Michael Badgley was released.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

He has spent time with five organizations and been waived by Cincinnati, Dallas and Cincinnati again.

Last season, he was released by Minnesota, made his NFL debut with San Francisco and then signed with Buffalo’s practice squad — all in the span of two months.

Asked what he learned on the journey that led to him becoming the Chargers’ new placekicker Tuesday, Tristan Vizcaino said, “I’ve learned that the NFL is a crazy business.”

He takes over for Michael Badgley, who was waived as the Chargers reached the league-mandated 53-player roster limit.

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The team also decided to keep three quarterbacks, with Chase Daniel and Easton Stick behind starter Justin Herbert.

Among the players cut were three recent draft picks: wide receiver Joe Reed (fifth round, 2020), edge rusher Emeke Egbule (sixth round, 2019) and defensive lineman Cortez Broughton (seventh round, 2019).

Wide receiver Tyron Johnson, who caught 20 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns a year ago, also was let go.

Chargers backup quarterback Chase Daniel has been impressed by the football IQ of second-year player Justin Herbert.

Vizcaino, 25, signed as a free agent in the offseason after making his NFL debut in Week 17 last season. He converted three field goals and two extra points for the 49ers in place of Robbie Gould, who was on the COVID-19 reserve list.

That performance caught the attention of Derius Swinton II, who is now the Chargers’ special teams coordinator, and led to the opportunity that Vizcaino seized over the last few weeks.

Born in Chino Hills, Vizcaino said he grew up rooting for the Chargers and called earning a job with the team “amazing and unbelievable.”

He played in college at Washington, where his career ended in 2018. After going undrafted, Vizcaino spent time with various practice squads while traveling around for other tryouts.

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“I knew I had the talent but, clearly coming out of college, I knew I also needed to improve if I wanted to be able to kick at the NFL level,” he said. “I knew that if I put the time in and dedicated myself to it that eventually it would happen.”

Badgley took over as the Chargers’ kicker full time midway through the 2018 season, during which he went 15 for 16 on field-goal attempts and 27 for 28 on extra points.

Kenneth Murray Jr. already set a Chargers rookie record for tackles in a season, and the new coaching staff believes he is getting better and better.

He missed half of the 2019 season because of injury and then struggled last year, missing eight field-goal tries from 46 yards and beyond.

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Coach Brandon Staley said Vizcaino’s upside and his prowess on kickoffs led to the choice to keep him over Badgley.

“This guy’s got real talent,” Staley said. “This guy’s got real leg strength. We feel like he’s got a lot of ability, and he’s at the beginning of his football journey. We felt like there’s a product in there that, if we can continue to tap into that development, there’s a really talented player there.”

Staley said the Chargers’ wide receiver depth helped lead to the decisions on both Reed and Johnson. Neither also was able to separate himself as a kick returner.

Johnson started last year on the Chargers’ practice squad but quickly emerged as a much-needed deep threat when given a chance to play in Week 4. He finished with four receptions of at least 50 yards, tops in the NFL.

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“It’s just one of those things where it’s more numbers, not so much how we feel about him as a player,” Staley said.

Broughton lost out to undrafted rookie Forrest Merrill mostly because the Chargers needed a bigger defensive lineman capable of playing inside.

Retired star Philip Rivers has not ruled out a return to the NFL, but his family is living large as he coaches high school football in Alabama.

Egbule was no better than fifth among the Chargers’ edge rushers, a group that includes veteran free-agent signee Kyler Fackrell and 2021 fourth-round pick Chris Rumph II.

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The remaining players cut Tuesday were guards Nate Gilliam and Ryan Hunter, wide receivers Michael Bandy and Jason Moore, running back Darius Bradwell, cornerback John Brannon, linebacker Cole Christiansen, defensive back Ben DeLuca, defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko, edge rusher Joe Gaziano and tight end Hunter Kampmoyer.

Over the next 24 hours the Chargers will assemble their practice squad, which can include up to 16 players, and weigh options as they monitor the waiver wire.

Chargers’ 53-man roster

The team by position after cutting the roster to the mandated 53:

Quarterbacks (3): Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick.

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Running backs (5): Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III, Gabe Nabers.

Offensive linemen (9): Rashawn Slater, Matt Feiler, Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Bryan Bulaga, Brenden Jaimes, Scott Quessenberry, Trey Pipkins III, Storm Norton.

Wide receivers (5): Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Joshua Palmer, KJ Hill Jr.

Tight ends (4): Jared Cook, Donald Parham Jr., Tre’ McKitty, Stephen Anderson.

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Defensive linemen (5): Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Justin Jones, Christian Covington, Forrest Merrill.

Edge (4): Joey Bosa, Kyler Fackrell, Uchenna Nwosu, Chris Rumph II.

Inside linebackers (5): Kenneth Murray Jr., Kyzir White, Drue Tranquill, Nick Niemann, Amen Ogbongbemiga.

Cornerbacks (6): Michael Davis, Chris Harris Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., Brandon Facyson, Tevaughn Campbell, Kemon Hall.

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Safeties (4): Derwin James Jr., Nasir Adderley, Alohi Gilman, Mark Webb.

Specialists (3): Kicker Tristan Vizcaino, punter Ty Long, long snapper Matt Overton.

Reserve/COVID-19 list (1): cornerback Ryan Smith.


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