10 Players Who Could Remedy San Diego Chargers’ Ongoing Left Tackle Problem This Offseason
San Diego Chargers: 10 Potential Remedies at Left Tackle
One of the most pleasant surprises in the NFL this past season occurred for the San Diego Chargers.
After three years spent mired in mediocrity with Norv Turner as head coach and general manager A.J. Smith running this team into the ground, the Bolts found lightning in a bottle with new head man Mike McCoy and GM Tom Telesco. Despite the impressive turnaround and subsequent playoff victory, this San Diego team still has plenty to address during the offseason.
Most believe a suspect secondary is where the team will begin the retooling effort after the defense was lit up during the first 12 weeks of the season. That may not be the case, however, as that same unit really gelled and found an identity down the stretch to help this team make the postseason.
One area that never seemed to find solid footing, though, was the offensive line where constant shuffling, a lack of solid depth and an absence of true quality across the board were evident all season long. Nowhere has this been more of an issue than at the most important position of all in the trenches at left tackle where the Chargers have been searching for an adequate replacement for Marcus McNeill the past few years.
Jared Gaither was valuable in a late-season run during 2011, but he completely disengaged in 2012 and proved to be a gigantic waste of money before earning his ticket out of town under the new regime. His replacement, King Dunlap, was solid in stretches this season, but injury issues and inconsistent play make him like merely another stopgap for the future at the position.
In order for Philip Rivers to feel safe behind center next season, one of these 10 players via either the 2014 NFL Draft or the free agent market must be added to the equation at the most important position on the Chargers’ offensive line.
10. Taylor Lewan - 2014 NFL Draft
This 6-foot-7, 315-pound prospect could have been a top-10 selection last year had he come out, but instead Taylor Lewan decided to return to Ann Arbor for his senior season. Though the Wolverines didn’t fare as well as he may have liked, Lewan’s performance had nothing to do with the team’s difficulties. Along with his Michigan ties, Lewan really looks like former Wolverine Jake Long physically and in his style of play. If he were somehow available when the Bolts are on the clock at No. 25 overall it would be insane to pass him up.
9. Greg Robinson - 2014 NFL Draft
Perhaps it’s blind optimism to think that another massive and stellar lineman out of Auburn could slip to the Bolts, but Greg Robinson would make a terrific fit in San Diego. He really plays a lot like the former Tiger, Marcus McNeill, manning the left tackle spot for the team. He is a raw player with only two years of starting experience, but that means he has very few bad habits. Robinson figures to go well before the Chargers get to pick this May, but it would be a dream come true if he’s somehow still available.
8. Cameron Erving - 2014 NFL Draft
There are still some technique issues to iron out with this big man, but Cameron Erving is expected to hear his name called early in May. Just how early remains to be determined, and his 6-foot-5, 310-pound frame would fit perfectly at the left tackle spot in San Diego. Foot speed and overall terrific athleticism highlight Erving’s skill-set and hint that he would be ideal to mirror even elite defensive ends at the next level. If he’s still around when the Bolts are on the clock, there’s no doubt he’d be a great choice at No. 25 overall.
7. Antonio Richardson - 2014 NFL Draft
Some feel like Antonio "Tiny" Richardson could be pushed up draft boards due to his sheer massiveness at 6-foot-6, 332-pounds, but that might not be enough to push him ahead of the Chargers pick in round one. Considering that ridiculous size, however, just how well he moves and how light he looks on his feet is astonishing. He pretty much engulfs defenders at the point of attack and would provide a terrific addition in terms of run-blocking. Him being available at No. 25 seems more realistic than some of the players mentioned earlier in this presentation.
6. Seantrel Henderson - 2014 NFL Draft
It’s hard to be overlooked when you are 6-foot-7, 345-pounds, but that’s exactly what figures to happen with Seantrel Henderson. He was once upon a time a top overall recruit in the country only to wind up a nomad during his collegiate career with a rather unimpressive resume to his name. His potential absolutely defines the term “boom or bust” prospect, but the Chargers could potentially address the secondary early in the draft and still find Henderson in round three.
5. Jared Veldheer - Free Agent
Now we start to explore some possibilities on the free-agent market where the Bolts could be somewhat ambitious this offseason. The team will still be reserved in its approach given the fact that cap space isn’t exactly their strong-suit, but landing a playing like Jared Veldheer would be a wise investment. His potential on the left side is through the roof, and adding him would take that upside away from the divisional rival Oakland Raiders. He may end up out of their price range or re-signed prior to free-agency opening up, but the Chargers should be interested if he hits the open market.
4. Branden Albert - Free Agent
Another AFC West foe, Branden Albert will be looking to land a serious payday this offseason. Though that doesn’t seem like the type of player the Chargers would target, perhaps this team feels they are a legit left tackle away from truly being a Super Bowl contender. After the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Eric Fisher No. 1 overall last year, it seems inevitable that Albert will leave for greener pastures this offseason. Nothing says he can’t stay in the division and protect Philip Rivers in 2014.
3. Cyrus Kouandijo - 2014 NFL Draft
Why this particular addition would be so appealing is the idea of taking Alabama tackles in back-to-back NFL Draft is D.J. Fluker and then Cyrus Kouandijo. At 6-foot-5, 310-pounds, he has the perfect body type to be a prototypical left tackle for the next decade with the Chargers. Having the chemistry already with Fluker would instantly allow the line to click and set the Bolts up for a powerful rushing attack as well given their success on the ground at Bama. He may be large, but his lean build makes him extremely appealing from a long-term durability standpoint which has to be a highly coveted trait for the Chargers in a left tackle.
2. King Dunlap - San Diego Chargers
Though King Dunlap dealt with his fair share of hardships this season, his 11 starts during the regular season were all fairly solid outings. Concussions were a big issue for him and have to remain a concern moving forward for the team, but he is still signed for next season at a reasonable rate. It’s hard to find a serviceable starting left tackle for just a $2.2 million cap hit, and there’s no doubt Dunlap has a spot on the roster in 2014. Whether he can hang on to his starting gig, however, remains to be seen.
1. Rodger Saffold - Free Agent
What makes Rodger Saffold the most appealing fit in San Diego has to be the versatility he displayed this past season with the St. Louis Rams. After they signed Jake Long during the offseason, Saffold flipped over to right tackle and excelled there. Injuries forced him to branch out even more when the Rams needed help at guard midway through the season, and he was terrific in that role as well. Once Long was hurt late in the year, Saffold returned to his natural place as a left tackle and performed at a high level. Other teams are sure to have taken notice of this still just 25-year-old, so he likely won’t be cheap to sign. If the Chargers are truly looking to upgrade Philip Rivers’ protection this offseason, however, finding a way to juggle the numbers and get Saffold on the roster is a must.