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Undrafted Free Agents Fit In With Bolts

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San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has come a long way from his college basketball days at Kent State. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky /Getty Images
San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has come a long way from his college basketball days at Kent State. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky /Getty Images

If there’s one thing to commend former San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith for, it’s his uncanny ability to find talent, but not in the NFL draft, although Corey Liuget (2011) and Kendall Reyes (2012) do look promising.

Nevertheless, Smith made a career out of finding undrafted free agents who eventually produced.

Now, the question is whether or not first-year GM Tom Telesco can do the same.

At this point, it’s doubtful any 2013 undrafted free agents will crack the Chargers’ starting lineup when San Diego opens the season Sept. 9 against the Houston Texans. But the Bolts will start at least four players who were former undrafted free agents, all of which were brought in by Smith.

Smith signed two undrafted free agents with no NFL experience:

Antonio Gates, TE -- Signed in 2003 -- The Chargers’ all-time leader in receptions begins his 11th season in the NFL in 2013. Originally a basketball player at Kent State, Gates has been selected to eight Pro Bowls. He’s a three-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team (2000-09).  

Malcom Floyd, WR –Signed in 2004 -- Floyd bounced on an off the practice squad for most of his first two years with the Chargers. But, in 2006 he found a permanent home on the active roster. However, until last season, he had been plagued by injuries for most of his career. His 14 starts last year were five more than his previous career-high.  Nevertheless, the talent is there. Floyd’s average yards per catch (17.1) is fifth among active NFL receivers.

Smith acquired two undrafted free agents with prior NFL experience:

Danario Alexander, WR -- First signed with Rams in 2010 -- After Alexander battled knee injuries his first two years in St. Louis, the Rams released him before last season. After the Chargers signed him in October, he started seven games for San Diego last year, catching 37 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns.  

Nick Novak, K -- First signed with Redskins in 2005 – Novak has finally hit NFL paydirt after spending several years in and out of the league.