Left tackle is one of those positions on an NFL roster that is often taken for granted when your team has a great one, but sorely missed when they don’t For the San Diego Chargers and their franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, the pain of lacking a top notch blindside protector is real. If this team has any desire to get back to the high-flying successful offense that they were in years from the not so distant past, finding a high-quality left tackle is imperative this offseason.
Rivers has to remember the days of being properly protected in the pocket when he could survey the field and select the open target on any given play. Those days haven’t been a reality for a few years now with the forced retirement by Marcus McNeill due to a chronic neck injury in 2010 and Jared Gaither’s on again, off again work ethic over the past two years. Unfortunately Gaither is still on the books in 2013 (for now at least), but the Bolts will try their best to find a replacement for him this offseason.
The NFL Draft seemed like a great place to begin when the season first concluded, but decisions by Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews to return to school at the tackle position took away that luxury. Now it seems that Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M will likely go in the top 5 while Central Michigan prospect Eric Fisher is a sure-fire top 10 selection. The last thing the Bolts need to do is trade up or reach for a second-rate tackle when they have other pressing needs to address.
Although free agency may seem like a pricey place to find help after just signing Gaither from there 12 months ago, this year is different. Last offseason Gaither was the top tackle on the market and was subsequently paid as such. This time around, there are several quality tackles that figure to be free agents. That abundance of options combined with some teams filling their needs via the draft will mean the demand ceases at least slightly allowing the price to stay reasonable.
One thing that should be cut and dry about the left tackle position this offseason is that Gaither won’t be the player manning it. After some anonymous teammates criticized him (one said: “I can’t even look him in the eye.” another said: “—-ing Gaither. He —-ing cost us big time.”), there is no way a player like that can be welcomed back to the locker room. Even though it would count $6 million against the cap in 2013 to cut him, that’s better than owing him $4.5 million for the upcoming season and have his laziness remain in San Diego.