SAN DIEGO — The Chargers, a team in search of a quarterback, made public Monday the names of two--Troy Aikman and Babe Laufenberg--who almost certainly won't be playing for them in 1989.
Earlier in the year, the Chargers told Dallas they were interested in talking about a deal that would enable them to select UCLA's Aikman in Sunday's National Football League draft. The Cowboys own the first pick of the first round. The Chargers have the eighth pick overall.
But, said Steve Ortmayer, Charger director of football operations: "I'm led to believe from the people that I talk to that the Cowboys are going to draft Aikman No. 1."
Meanwhile, the Chargers told Laufenberg, 29, they have decided not to offer him a contract for 1989. Laufenberg, who started the first six games of the 1988 season, now is an unrestricted free agent. He completed 61 of 126 passes for 703 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions last season. The Chargers won two of his six starts before Mark Malone replaced Laufenberg.
"I am disappointed," Laufenberg said, "but I'm not bitter. In effect, they fired me. This \o7 is\f7 what I do for a living. But I didn't make the big plays last year. I would like to have had a second chance."
Malone finished the season as the Chargers' starter, but he also finished 1988 with the lowest-listed quarterback rating in the American Football Conference for the second consecutive year. Which is why the Chargers still need a quarterback.
The next best quarterback available in Sunday's draft is USC's Rodney Peete. But draft experts agree that selecting Peete with the eighth pick would be a "reach." Most people figure Peete won't go until the middle of the first round. Ortmayer has said other teams have contacted the Chargers about trading up for the eighth pick. If that happens and the Chargers wind up picking 15th, for example, Peete becomes a very real possibility.
But the consensus is the Chargers will have to make a choice on the eighth pick between Nebraska linebacker Broderick Thomas and Florida free safety Louis Oliver.
"That's OK with me," Ortmayer said, "Those are two good football players."
Ron Lynn, Charger defensive coordinator, said Monday that Thomas' stock has risen in recent days, adding he wouldn't be surprised if one of the seven teams picking ahead of the Chargers chose him. Thomas is a 6-foot-2 1/4, 254-pound outside linebacker who also excels at rushing the passer. The Chargers didn't have a sack by a starting linebacker until the 10th game of the 1988 season.
Ortmayer said he has talked "five or six times" with Pittsburgh since the NFL owners' meetings last month. But he refused to name the players discussed. The player of interest to the Chargers is outside linebacker Mike Merriweather, who sat out last season because of a contract dispute.
Merriweather was the Steelers' defensive MVP in 1987 and had a team-record 15 sacks in 1984. But he wanted a new four-year, $4.2-million contract last summer. The Steelers, to whom he is still under contract, offered a four-year deal worth $2.8 million.
Asked to make a general statement about the advantages of trading for a proven veteran, Ortmayer said: "You know a lot more about what you're buying. You have a lot more background information. You have information about that veteran playing against people the caliber against whom he's gonna have to play against when he gets to you."
Tom Donahoe, the Steelers' director of player personnel, said Monday he was unaware Ortmayer had talked to anybody in the Steeler organization five or six times. "If he had," Donahoe said, "I think I would know about it."
The Steelers own the seventh pick of the first round.
Ortmayer attended a workout Friday in Los Angeles during which Aikman and approximately two dozen other prospective selections showed their stuff. "For a guy who is in the middle of an off-season rather than in the middle of a season, he (Aikman) looked good," Ortmayer said. "He looked a bit rusty. But you certainly are able to see all the things that you like to be able to see in a quarterback."