The San Diego Chargers were relieved to hear Nick Hardwick is coming back next year. All parties involved are glad to see Hardwick coming back into the fold. The front office has one less position to search for in their mission to build depth across the board. Philip Rivers should be glad his longtime center is back, anchoring the Mike McCoy no-huddle offense.
The biggest issue is obviously to monitor Hardwick’s health. He already had concussion issues after being knocked out from the Cincinnati Bengals playoff game. The last Charger forced into early retirement due to concussion related injuries was Kris Dielman. His health will dictate how much is left in the tank for the offensive lineman.
Hardwick is fitting for the young offensive line. His veteran leadership should be rewarded with a deep run at the Lombardi Trophy as a perfect retirement gift. Since no one records stats for offensive linemen, his productivity is hard to measure. The only measure outsiders can consider is that Hardwick has been on the same page with Rivers for nearly a decade and Ryan Mathews saw a great push from his line in 2013.
If Hardwick can’t go sometime in 2014, the Chargers should consider backup center Rich Ohrnberger for next year. He filled in during Hardwick’s injury in Cincy, so he should at least garner a spot on the 53-man roster. Money’s tight for San Diego, and he might be a cheap alternative to signing a top-tier free agent. Though Hardwick will start 2014, expect the Chargers to acquire talent through cheaper alternatives like free agents cut off rosters, undrafted free agents or the right draft pick. The Chargers will look more depth over the next few months.