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2017 Chargers Analysis: Offensive Line

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Burn it all down and try again.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers’ offensive line is horrendous outside of Matt Slauson who was a solid starter at Center. They have a whole bunch of players under contract for 2017, and not many of them are any good at all. Let’s break it down by position.

Left Tackle

King Dunlap was good a few years ago. He’s set to make $8,375,000 this season, and would only cost the Chargers $3.25 million to cut. He’s played in 19 games in the last season and has been meh at best when on the field. He is 31 and is no longer the player he was when Tom Telesco re-signed him after the 2014 season. He’s played one full season in 8 years in the league, and it’s time to let him go. He’s just not worth $8 million dollars. Sorry.

Chris Hairston, on the other hand, has been a model of consistency. He’s missed one game in the last 3 seasons, and isn’t very expensive, and is consistently slightly below average. He’s fine in a pinch as a swing tackle, but should not be the starting LT for the Chargers at any point ever again.

Tyler Johnston... who?

Left Guard

Orlando Franklin has been absolutely horrific. He’s a damn crook and signed a 5 year, $36 million dollar contract, and has not played well enough to justify a $1 million yearly salary. The Chargers are set to pay him $7.6 million this year and would eat a $4.8 million hit if they cut him now. He’s practically been a body on the line, and hasn’t done much better than anyone who went undrafted recently could do.

Center

Matt Slauson is the only player worth their money on the Chargers offensive line. $1.8 million this year is a steal for a solid starting Center in this league. Too bad he’s 30 and is only under contract through 2017.

Max Tuerk has been billed as the future of the center position for the Chargers. An actual center coming out of college (ahem Chris Watt*), he didn’t see any playing time through the season as the Chargers didn’t want to rush him back from his college-ending injury. Plus, Matt Slauson did a good job. If Max Tuerk can be even an average Center this season, the Chargers can kick Matt Slauson out to Guard (where he played most of his career with Chicago), and the line would instantly improve.

Right Guard

D.J. Fluker seems like a really nice dude. There’s a reason he isn’t put in front of microphones a whole lot, but he seems like a really good natured, motivated guy. He’s also freakishly strong and has done an okay job for the Chargers. The biggest redeeming quality for him is this body slam. He’s due $8.35 million this season due to the option the Chargers picked up which makes me want to puke all over the place, but if the Chargers can get him re-signed for $3 million or less a year, I’ll be satisfied.

Spencer Pulley went undrafted, but quickly made waves locally and started for an injured D.J. Fluker, but was less than stellar. He’d make an okay backup, but should not be a starting guard in the NFL. He might develop into a starter, but he’s not there yet.

Donavon Clark is probably the most exciting player on this list. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 draft after not allowing a single sack in his final collegiate season. According to people who attended practices before he tore his ACL in the preseason, he looked really good and didn’t make many mistakes. Daniel Stebbins thought he’d push for playing time early. Hopefully, he can come back fully healed and turn himself into a starting quality NFL guard sooner than later.

Right Tackle

Joe Barksdale is a guy I really feel bad for. Plagued by penalties this season and overall bad play after signing a solid extension in the offseason, “fans” snide comments caused him to delete his social media accounts. Easily one of the funniest guys in the locker room for the Chargers, I hope he improves to how well he played in 2015. Considering he’s only 28, that is fairly likely. With the return of the photobomb king next season, let’s hope he returns to form.

Free Agency

Luke Joeckel is available at LT, and I wouldn’t mind the Chargers giving him a chance. He’s a former first-round pick, and maybe a change of scenery would be good for him. Riley Reiff from the lions would be a solid LT to give Rivers good protection for the rest of his career and would be an upgrade on any of the tackles currently on the roster. He might not be cheap because no one worth starting ever is at LT. No one at guard excites me (in the Charger’s price range), and Center isn’t a need.

Draft

Here’s where people expect the Chargers to make a splash. I’m not a fan of Cam Robinson because he reminds me a lot of DJ Fluker. He’s kind of big and slow, so he won’t work out as a left tackle, and might be best suited for guard. Ryan Ramczyk out of Wisconsin is probably the best offensive line prospect in the draft at left tackle, but might not be taken by the Chargers due to needs elsewhere, and there will probably be quite a few better players available at 7. Unless the Chargers trade down, he’s probably not a possibility. Forrest Lamp would also be a great fit for the Chargers at T/G and would quickly become the best lineman on the roster, but the Chargers would probably have to trade down to justify it.

“Forrest Lamp, a three-year star in PFF’s grading system, Lamp only gave up four pressures last season on 417 attempts, including his signature game in which he allowed only one against a formidable Alabama defensive front. He’s played left tackle for Western Kentucky, though he may get moved to guard in the NFL, but regardless of position, he is smooth in pass protection and strong in the run game where his 82.7 grade tied for fifth in the nation.” - Pro Football Focus