COSTA MESA — In March, the Chargers signed Russell Okung, making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid left tackles. In April, the Chargers drafted three offensive linemen, including two within the first three rounds.
So why — a week into August — are the Chargers starting a former practice-squad journeyman at right guard?
“I’m doing something right, you know?” Kenny Wiggins said.
Tuesday is Wiggins’ 29th birthday, which means he isn’t bubbling with unrealized potential. But with just five weeks left until the Chargers’ regular-season opener in Denver, the 6-foot-6, 314-pound lineman has made himself a stable part of the rotation — one who has experience at just about every spot on the offensive line.
Not bad for someone who was nearly out of the league.
Three years ago, Wiggins was out of practice-squad eligibility. Undrafted out of Fresno State in 2011, he had spent his first two seasons with the Ravens and the 49ers without making the active roster. The Chargers promoted him in November 2013, then proceeded to cut him twice in the span of 21 months.
For most of 2014, he was without a job. Although he had workouts lined up with different teams after the season, thoughts of a new career — perhaps in broadcasting — flickered in the back of his mind.
But injuries prompted the Chargers to give him another call that December. In Week 17 at Arrowhead Stadium, Wiggins made his NFL debut: a single snap on special teams.
Less than nine months later, the Chargers cut him. Again.
This absence didn’t last long. After D.J. Fluker injured his ankle in the 2015 season opener, Wiggins again joined the team. He appeared in every game for the rest of the year, and added eight offensive starts to his resume. After spending last season as a reserve, he re-signed with the Chargers in March, inking a one-year deal.
A month later, his future blurred again. The Chargers used the No. 38 overall pick on Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, and the No. 71 overall pick on Indiana’s Dan Feeney. In doing so, they added two potential starters to the offensive line — or, at the very least, two candidates to bump Wiggins down the depth chart.
Those moves didn’t exactly shock Wiggins.
“Being an undrafted free agent, I know they’re always going to be looking at me — and looking at me being replaced,” he said. “That’s just how it is. That’s the nature of the business, and the position I’m in. I should have played better in college.”