SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- He stood fourth on a three-deep depth chart in Washington, but now quarterback Stan Humphries has been summoned as the San Diego Chargers' savior.
With the benefit of nine games of NFL experience, including five starts, Humphries figures to vault in front of Bob Gagliano, Jeff Graham and Pat O'Hara in the Chargers' plans when he joins the team Sunday in San Diego.
"He's going to have to compete for the starting job," Chargers coach Bobby Ross said. "That's what I told all of them [Gagliano, Graham and O'Hara]. Some said, 'Well, that may not be true,' but I think that remains to be seen.
"Obviously, he has limited experience like the guys we got, but the advantages are he has been in the league for four or five years, has been in a hell of a program, he's had damn good coaching and he's had it in our system."
Humphries, 27, has not played in a regular-season NFL game since Nov. 5, 1990, when he suffered a knee injury against Detroit. His preseason practice time also has been reduced because of Washington coach Joe Gibbs' dissatisfaction with Humphries' offseason work habits.
"I'm excited about getting an opportunity to play," Humphries said. "That's what I have been waiting for and I have to take advantage of it.
"At least I'm going to have an opportunity to start; that's all I have asked. You get to the point where you are just tired of being in limbo."
General manager Bobby Beathard said the Chargers will surrender a third-round draft pick to Washington in 1993 if Humphries takes more than 50 percent of the team's snaps this year. The Redskins will receive a fourth-round pick rather than a third if Humphries fails to meet the playing time standard.
Humphries has one year remaining on a contract that calls for $500,000, including roster and signing bonuses. Beathard already has talked to Humphries' agent about extending his contract one year.
Beathard also received assurances that Humphries will remain in San Diego in the offseason to work with the club, something Humphries did not do in Washington.
"I'm not really sure what we're getting," Beathard said. "I think it's something we had to take a shot at. He's a talented passer; we always thought he was a good prospect."
The Redskins offered Humphries to the Chargers on draft day earlier this season for a sixth-round pick. Beathard contended at the time that the price was too steep.
After quarterback John Friesz went down with a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's exhibition opener with Phoenix, it became obvious that the Chargers were going to have to pay a high price for another quarterback.
Beathard offered a fifth-round choice Tuesday for Humphries and agreed to make it a fourth if Humphries made the team's final 47-man roster. The Redskins rejected Beathard's offer and ordered Humphries to join the team on its Tuesday night flight to London for an exhibition game.
"We had other teams interested," Washington general manager Charley Casserly said. "We wanted a third-round pick. That was always the price."
On Wednesday the Chargers acceded to Washington's demand, and at 3 a.m. (EDT) yesterday, Casserly telephoned Beathard to confirm they had a deal.
Humphries started a five-game stretch for the Redskins in 1990 after Mark Rypien was injured and had Redskins fans singing his praises. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns in his first start against the Phoenix Cardinals.