Aside from picking their next head coach, the most important thing the San Diego Chargers must do this off-season is improve their offensive line, particularly the offensive tackle position. Left tackle Jared Gaither will likely be released due to his inability to stay healthy while an improvement over right tackle Jeromey Clary has been needed for quite some time. Philip Rivers was sacked a career-high 49 times in 2012, second most in the NFL.
Earlier this week, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews both decided to put their NFL dreams on hold and return to their respective schools for their senior seasons.
Lewan and Matthews would have likely been selected in the top half of the first round in April’s NFL Draft. The Chargers, who hold the 11th overall pick, would have likely taken a long, hard look at the two. Now, their plans will have to change.
What was once considered a very deep offensive tackle class at the top has now dwindled down to just a few names. Matthews’ teammate at Texas A&M, offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, has declared for the NFL Draft and is expected to be a top-five pick and could go number one overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers would likely have to trade up to get him. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher is a first-round talent who the Chargers could look at, but teams picking ahead of them like the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals also need offensive line help and could grab Fisher.
Maybe other offensive tackle prospects move up the draft boards by April. But the Chargers now should consider free agency to address at least one of their offensive tackle positions.
Miami Dolphins offensive tackle and former number one overall pick Jake Long and Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady are set to be free agents, but will have a hefty price tag. The cost could be worth it if it can help Rivers return to Pro Bowl form. New general manager Tom Telesco will have to figure out what approach he’ll take to fix the offensive line.