SAN DIEGO — The Chargers moved on two fronts to augment their offensive unit on Wednesday, signing veteran lineman Ed White to a two-year contract and extending tryout invitations to quarterbacks, including Mark Herrmann and Rich Campbell.
White, who will be 38 in June, is regarded as the team's No. 1 offensive lineman.
Coach Don Coryell said several times last season that White, who shifted from guard to tackle as the line was restructured, was having his most productive year.
He also is one of the all-time greats and can tie a National Football League record for longevity if he plays in all 16 games next season.
By staying healthy and participating in each game in 1985, he would tie Mick Tingelhoff's record for most career games played (240). Tingelhoff is a former teammate of White, who was traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Chargers in 1978.
White's agent, Bob Stein, said he views the two-year contract as a commitment by Charger management to "having the best team possible." He said agreement on the terms of the deal was reached at an earlier stage of the year than any previous contract he had negotiated for White.
White's continued presence also is a key to maintaining the health of quarterback Dan Fouts, who was lost for significant parts of the last two seasons with a variety of injuries.
Protecting Fouts is a must if the Chargers are to rebound from two straight losing seasons.
Complicating matters was the recent defection of backup quarterback Ed Luther to the United States Football League. He signed a four-year, $2.6-million deal with the Jacksonville Bulls, leaving inexperienced Bruce Mathison as the only other quarterback on the roster.
To provide some competition for Mathison, or perhaps replace him with a more established player, the Chargers are going to audition as many as eight quarterbacks in the next couple of weeks.
First on the list is Herrmann, who served as Mike Pagel's understudy with the Indianapolis Colts. If the Chargers decide to sign Herrmann, who is a free agent, they would be obligated to compensate the Colts for the four-year veteran.
Another candidate is Campbell, a reserve with the Green Bay Packers.
Both Herrmann and Campbell are tentatively scheduled to take part in tryouts on Friday morning. Others may be auditioned later, according to General Manager Johnny Sanders.
There may be fewer quarterback jobs in the NFL this year, because the league is considering reducing rosters from 49 to 45 players. Many teams would carry only two quarterbacks instead of three, as was standard in recent seasons, Sanders said.
Teams contemplating paring their supply of quarterbacks have contacted Sanders in the interest of swinging a deal. The Chargers are almost certain to go with three quarterbacks, in keeping with Coryell's long-standing preference for depth at that position, Sanders said.
On a purely speculative level, the Chargers also are hoping to add any or all of a threesome of USFL players, including wide receiver Trumaine Johnson and backs Tim Spencer and Gary Anderson, whose NFL rights they own.
Their interest in Johnson remains especially strong. The third-year pro is involved in a contractual dispute with the Arizona Outlaws. The Chargers can not legally negotiate with him, however, unless authorized by the Outlaws.
They would be free to enter into negotiations with Spencer and Anderson after the USFL season ends in June. The contracts of those players expire at the end of the season.
Ed White's agent, Bob Stein, said he views the two-year contract as a commitment by Charger management to 'having the best team possible.'