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Chargers make sensible signings on Day 1 of free agency

While the Giants, Jaguars and Raiders were lavish spenders on the opening day of free agency, the San Diego Chargers were prudent, honing in on players that did not break the bank and filled specific needs.

San Diego kept key players like tight end Antonio Gates (two years, $12 million) and offensive lineman Joe Barksdale (four years, $22 million) at reasonable prices.

And the Chargers also brought in players that filled obvious holes, inking speedy wide receiver Travis Benjamin to a four-year, $24 million contract; signing run-stuffer Brandon Mebane to a three-year, $13.5 million deal; and securing the services of a starting-caliber safety in Dwight Lowery at $7.2 million over three years.

Now that the first day is over, the Chargers can take a step back and look for bargains during the second wave of free agency. General manager Tom Telesco has been successful at this in the past, with players like Danny Woodhead and Patrick Robinson.

* ESPN's Bill Barnwell gave the Chargers a C-minus for Benjamin, believing they paid too much.

Barnwell: “Benjamin will likely take over the Malcom Floyd role in San Diego's offense, and while it makes sense to see the Chargers target a veteran to fill that spot, this is a lot of money for a receiver who may very well be fifth in line for targets behind Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Stevie Johnson and Danny Woodhead. Benjamin has enough upside to make the deal comprehensible from San Diego's perspective, but this is money the Chargers really needed to throw at their offensive line or 28th-ranked defense. Benjamin does add value as a punt returner, where the Chargers struggled mightily last year, but solid returners come a lot cheaper than this.”

My take: That’s the price you pay shopping on Day 1 of free agency. Benjamin's deal includes $13 million in guaranteed money. He’s 26 years old, so it's possible he will play out the duration of the contract. I see Benjamin as San Diego’s No. 2 receiver, and he should get 6-8 touches per game, including returns. Injuries could be an issue because of his size, but they're getting solid value for a person of Benjamin’s skill set.

* ESPN's Kevin Seifert called San Diego’s signing of Benjamin one of the under-the-radar moves of free agency.

Seifert: “Receiver Travis Benjamin should blossom now that he's out of Cleveland and catching passes from Philip Rivers in San Diego. Benjamin nabbed 86 receptions and scored eight touchdowns the past two seasons while playing for a Cleveland Browns team whose starting quarterbacks included Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis, Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw. Browns QBs completed 58.1 percent of their passes over that period, second-lowest in the NFL. Rivers completed 66.3 percent, fifth-best in the league.”

My take: I agree. Benjamin should benefit from the consistency and stability Rivers provides.

* Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated gave the Chargers solid grades for the team’s moves in free agency.

My take: Again, I believe the Chargers did a good job of filling specific needs while not breaking the bank.

* Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith of The Mighty 1090 talked with new Charger Brandon Mebane (click here to listen.) Mebane talked about his experience playing in Seattle and what kind of leadership he’ll bring to his new team.

My take: The interview provides a good window into Mebane’s laid-back personality. Mebane’s a pro’s pro, and will be a good mentor for San Diego’s young defensive linemen.