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Chargers Vet to Test Free Agency

Gregory targeting a starting role

By Michael Gehlken
|  Thursday, Jan 5, 2012  |  Updated 8:41 AM PDT
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Steve Gregory #28 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates his interception for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills at Qualcomm Stadium on December 11, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 37-10.

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Steve Gregory believes he's a starter in this league.

This offseason, the San Diego Chargers safety wants to find out who agrees.

Gregory will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, and this week, the 28-year-old expressed plans to test the open market, looking for an NFL team that will commit to him as their go-to option.

Ultimately, he hopes the search won't take him far.

"I feel like I'm a legit starter in this league," said Gregory, who started a career-high 13 games in place of Bob Sanders. "I think I've proven that. That's the opportunity I'm looking for. I hope it's here with San Diego. I love playing here. But there's a process I'm obviously going to have to go through, and we'll see where it takes me."

Gregory, one of 20 impending Chargers free agents, including 16 unrestricted, ranked fourth on the team with 67 tackles and returned a momentum-swinging Week 14 interception against the Buffalo Bills for his first career score.

He's started in stretches since 2008, but the Chargers have spent their offseasons exploring different options atop the position's depth chart, be it through the draft or free agency.

Opposite the sixth-year veteran out of Syracuse, best friend and Pro Bowl free safety Eric Weddle lauds Gregory's starting merits.

Weddle, who led all defensive backs with a 25.8 opposing quarterback rating on passes thrown in his direction, credits their off-the-field relationship for boosting their chemistry in the secondary.

Gregory hopes the two start alongside each other next season and beyond, but that decision won't develop for some time; the free agency period opens March 13 at 1 p.m. PST.

So, first things first.

"I'm just going to stay in shape," Gregory said. "Head out to Hawaii (for the Pro Bowl) with my buddy Eric. Enjoy that. And when it comes time, take it from there."

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