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What the Russell Okung-Trai Turner trade means for the Chargers salary cap

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Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

It’s official: Tom Telesco is willing to try something different this year.

Outside of the most obvious change-over — namely the parting of ways with Philip Rivers —another interesting wrinkle is that on Wednesday it was reported that Telesco is trading tackle Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for guard Trai Turner. It would be the first trade by the LA Chargers since October 26, 2017, when Telesco dealt Dontrelle Inman to the Chicago Bears for a conditional draft pick that did not convey.

It is the first time that Telesco has acquired something in a trade since adding Cardale Jones in July of that same year and the first time ever that he’s traded a player for a player.

The move not only helps the Chargers get younger on the offensive line — Turner is six years younger than Okung — but it opens up some cap space for 2020. Telesco is moving Okung’s $13 million base salary to the Panthers and taking on an $8.5 million base salary in 2020 for Turner. So it should be an immediate savings of $3.5 million if no other pieces are involved.

The other part of the equation is that Los Angeles is now on the hook for Turner’s $15.4 $11.5m cap hit in 2021 unless they part ways with him, which would be a savings of $9.7 million per OvertheCap.com. Obviously the goal here is to not part ways with Turner, an immediate starter at one of the guard positions.

Turner did play 236 snaps at right tackle in 2016, but has been at right guard for the rest of his career. Turner has made each of the last five Pro Bowls but has received some poor marks for his run blocking in 2018 and 2019, just as the Panthers as a whole have struggled to be as competitive offensively as they had hoped to be.

I estimate the Chargers to go from $49 million in cap space to roughly $52.5 million in cap space.