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Free Agency is as Important as the NFL Draft

What's all this talk about the NFL Draft? Free agency is right around the corner and San Diego Chargers fans should be paying attention!

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, during "Gennaro-ly Speaking", I went on my annual anti-Draft rant. If you've been here long enough, you know the one. How nobody knows anything about team needs and mock drafts are meaningless at this point because there are two months of free agency before the NFL Draft starts that could change everything.

At one point, I slowed down and said "Free agency is equally as important as the draft. The draft is equally as important as free agency." The difference, for me, is that free agency comes first. So that's the one I'm going to focus on first.

The argument from some in the audience was that free agency hasn't been kind to the San Diego Chargers. Someone pointed to Jared Gaither and Robert Meachem as proof that we should be focusing on the draft and not free agency, apparently disregarding Jonas Mouton, Larry English, Antoine Cason and others.

I argued that almost half of the starters on most NFL teams are made up of free agents. Even the good teams. However, I didn't have a lot to back that up at the time.

Since I was also arguing that we should be paying attention to the players that will become free agents, even if they end up re-signing with the same team, I thought I'd put together a list of all of the players that started at least 1 game for the Chargers in 2013 and have been free agents at some point during their career.

  • Eric Weddle
  • Derek Cox
  • King Dunlap
  • Chad Rinehart
  • Jarret Johnson
  • Richard Marshall
  • John Phillips
  • Eddie Royal
  • Reggie Walker
  • Dwight Freeney
  • Le'Ron McClain
  • Thomas Keiser
  • Malcom Floyd
  • Rich Ohrnberger
  • Danny Woodhead

I might actually be forgetting a couple. It's tough to remember those guys that signed a day or two after free agency started. I think Nick Hardwick missed free agency by an hour, but I could be wrong about that.

In total, that's 15 of the 41 guys (36.5%) that started games for the Chargers last year. That percentage probably would've been higher had there not been a freakish amount of injuries to the team's group of WRs and LBs, but that's neither here nor there.

Even if your team's goal is to build mostly through the draft, as was the stated goal of A.J. Smith and is the current goal of Tom Telesco, free agency is still used as a way to plug holes at the upper-most positions of your depth chart. Try and remember that the next time someone asks you about the draft in February.