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How to Fix the Chargers Offensive Line via Free Agency

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Could a couple of Cleveland Browns offensive linemen be on the San Diego Chargers radar? They probably should be.

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The San Diego Chargers are in a weird place, but it may not be a bad place.

After a 4-12 season, and with the 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, you would think that the team would be in total "rebuild mode". However, they will bring back veterans like Philip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates, and Keenan Allen to power the offense.

On the defensive side, they're in the sweet spot where young players that haven't yet gotten paid (Melvin Ingram, Jason Verrett, Denzel Perryman) leave open enough cap room to sign veterans needed to boost the overall talent of the team.

In a nutshell, the Chargers probably have one or two more years to "go for it" before it's time to blow it up and rebuild. Whoever they take with the 3rd overall pick will be selected with the idea that they'll help with the "go for it" plan, not the future rebuild plan.

The Biggest Weakness

Look, the Chargers offensive line was atrocious last season. Sure, they line was rarely healthy, but even when they were there was issues.....and that was after an offseason "revamp" that saw them bring in Orlando Franklin and move D.J. Fluker to a more suitable position.

This offseason, the team fired their Offensive Line Coach and replaced him with two Offensive Line Coaches. That's fine, and that should help, but that doesn't solve the big problems:

  1. The starting LT has missed 14 games over the last 3 seasons.
  2. The starting Center is......who?

I don't know about you, but I'm about ready to give up on Chris Watt as the team's future Nick Hardwick. Trevor Robinson finally got enough time in 2015 to show why the Cincinnati Bengals gave up on him. It's time to find a new anchor in the middle of the line, and a more consistent blocker on Philip Rivers' blind side.

Assets

Currently, the Chargers rank 13th in the largest cap space available heading into free agency. They could jump up to top 10 if they cut Donald Brown this offseason, and could jump way higher if they decide to get out of that Corey Liuget contract (more on that in the coming days).

They also have the third pick in the 1st round of the draft, and therefore probably have the third pick in each subsequent round of the draft, and all of those are owned by the team except a 5th round pick that I believe is owned by the 49ers as part of the Melvin Gordon trade.

Free Agency

As luck would have it, the free agent market has a ready-made anchor for the middle of the line available.

Well, hello there.

Alex Mack wasn't just one of my favorite TV characters growing up, and he's not just one of my favorite centers in the league, but he's also consistently one of the top rated offensive linemen in the league annually by Pro Football Focus.

Mack is 30 years old and will be 31 by the end of the 2016 season. He'll be opting out of a contract that would pay him $20 million over the next 3 years. You'll probably need to offer him something close to $35 million over 4 years to get him to sign, and the Chargers should definitely do that if they are serious about trying to "go for it" with Philip Rivers as their QB.

Trade Market

There may be other options out there, but today I'm only addressing one.

Joe Thomas.

Here's my scouting report on Joe Thomas: He's the best Tackle in the league and it's not close. This has remained the same for the nine seasons that he has been in the NFL.

Supposedly, the Browns got very far in trade talks with the Broncos during the season and nearly pulled the trigger on a deal that would've sent Thomas to the eventual Super Bowl champs.

There is a rumor floating around that the Browns would be willing to part with Thomas for a 2nd round pick, which is kinda silly considering they turned down a 1st rounder from Denver for him just a couple of months ago and Thomas gets very affordable over the last three seasons of his contract with Cleveland.

Thomas even killed his trade market a few weeks back by saying that he met with Hue Jackson and he has been assured he wouldn't be traded.

I believe Hue Jackson wants to keep Thomas, because he's not an idiot. I also believe that Hue Jackson would listen to an outstanding offer from a team that is willing to overpay to "go for it" now while he builds his own team from the ground up in Cleveland.

Here's what overpaying for Joe Thomas looks like:

Chargers get:

  • Joe Thomas, OT

Browns gets:

  • Chargers 2016 2nd round pick
  • Chargers 2017 1st round pick

It's worth noting here that Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are close friends, and would likely relish the opportunity to continue playing on the same team.

It's also worth noting that the line you're left with after that looks like this:

LT Joe Thomas
LG Orlando Franklin
C Alex Mack
RG D.J. Fluker
RT ????

You could, in theory, look for a LG or a RT (Joe Barksdale?) and move Orlando Franklin accordingly. Either way, even without a RT, that is a ridiculous offensive line that would make the Chargers an immediate contender for the division and would make their decision to draft Melvin Gordon in the 1st round last year look a lot better.

It's just a thought. How would you go about building a new offensive line for the Chargers this offseason? Let us know in the commend below.