When the San Diego Chargers start the rebuilding process this offseason, there is no doubt that the pillars of the offense need an overhaul. What the organization needs more than anything is a fundamental shift in how the club approaches retooling. This time around, things need to be less about flash and more about structure as quarterback Philip Rivers has been running for his life all season. Thankfully there will be plenty of options for the team this offseason when looking to replenish an evaporated talent pool along the offensive front and here are some options that the Bolts should consider.
First things first, the franchise must decide which players currently on the roster will stick around and who needs to go. The most glaring player that must be sent packing is right tackle Jeromey Clary who has been an absolute nightmare for years now, but the club has failed to land an adequate replacement. His penalty-prone ineptitude must be purged for this offensive line to truly be on its way toward structural integrity.
The other possibility here is left tackle Jared Gaither who just signed his big deal last offseason, but the majority of it is backloaded. His signing bonus was prorated over the duration of the contract so the Bolts would have to eat $6 million of that in a cap hit, but his inability to stay healthy makes it worthwhile. There is no need to be paying a player that much money if he isn’t even available on a weekly basis to help the team.
Here is where things get very interesting as this year’s crop of free agents is loaded with talent on the offensive line. Top-tier tackles like Ryan Clady, Jake Long, and Andre Smith will be on the open market and a top underrated guard in Andy Levitre also joins this group as possible signings. If the team decides to part ways with both Clary and Gaither, two new tackles would be needed and my favorite on the left side is Clady. He is a quiet guy who doesn’t get as much recognition as Long, but he is the guy responsible for Peyton Manning’s resurgence with the Denver Broncos this season.
On the other side, Andre Smith is the perfect right tackle with great road-grader blocking skills and the ability to get to the second level in a heartbeat. His play has been solid since coming into the league and he is still young at 26 years of age when free agency arrives. Adding Andy Levitre at guard would also be a great addition, but the fact is that one of these two will likely not happen if the Bolts sign a top flight left tackle. No worries however, there is still one more place for the team to improve its offensive front.
Texas A&M is the place to look if you are in need of offensive tackles in this year’s draft with both Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews hailing from the Aggies. If the Chargers end up with a top five pick, they may choose not to pursue a left tackle in free agency and perhaps draft Joeckel. If they aren’t blessed with this good fortune however, the team will more likely have to look at right tackle and Matthews is the perfect fit here. Obviously much of this depends on how things go during free agency, but it seems clear that two, preferably three new faces are needed for the Bolts in the trenches.
That is the one valid complaint about General Manager A.J. Smith; he never replaced two Pro Bowl linemen in Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman. This is the offseason where that overhaul takes place and the Chargers will finally restore what was once the strength of this team offensively.
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