Last offseason was about the Chargers reshaping their offensive line and this offseason thus far has been about assembling a defense that suites Brandon Staley’s scheme.
The Chargers have added four new starters on defense, including pass-rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback JC Jackson. After the last season in which the Chargers’ defense finished the 2021 season third-worst in points allowed per game (27), Staley’s unit now looks poised for a drastic improvement for the season ahead.
Meanwhile, the offensive side of the ball has seen just minimal new additions. The Chargers have extended wide receiver Mike Williams and tendered tight end Donald Parham, wide receiver Jalen Guyton and offensive tackle Storm Norton. But external additions have been few and far between other than tight end Gerald Everett, who comes over after a year spent in Seattle.
The Chargers have solidified a handful of team needs since free agency began. But one constant remains the same – the need for a starter at right tackle and right guard.
Last season, Storm Norton stepped into the starting role at right tackle after Bryan Bulaga missed all but one game due to injuries. The Chargers have cut a byte with Bulaga, saving over $ 10 million in cap space. With Norton brought back on the tender, he currently figures as the starter but last season was evident that he still needs more time refining his game before being handed the full-time responsibility.
Ideally, the Chargers enter the season with Norton as competition for a rookie drafted in the early rounds or they sign a veteran and Norton slots in as the team’s swing tackle.
If they opt to go the route of finding a veteran to fill the void at right tackle, it won’t be easy. The bulk of the right tackle options on the free agency market to begin the offseason have signed elsewhere.
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The now notable option available is Daryl Williams, who was released by the Bills three weeks ago. Williams, 29, has made every start across the last two seasons in Buffalo. The Chargers have consistently had to patch together their right tackle spot the last two years so finding a player who’s proven to be available could be an intriguing sales pitch.
Another option is browsing the trade market. The Chargers don’t hold a second-round pick this year but in totality, they hold 10 total selections. With as good of a roster as the Chargers possess, it’s probably far-fetched to assume 10 rookies can crack the roster when the team breaks camp. Therefore, they could part ways with a pick or two on Day 3 of the draft in an effort to find a right tackle solution in the form of a trade.
It’s also worth noting that left guard Matt Feiler has a background of playing right tackle. In his first four years in Pittsburgh, he played tackle rather than guard. The Chargers could plug him in at the right tackle and look for two new guards. Feiler’s versatility offers the Chargers a wide range of options in how they can handle finding two new offensive lineman to join their starting five upfront.
As for the Chargers’ hole at right guard, re-signing Oday Aboushi is a possibility. Aboushi is coming off a tower ACL after making five starts in which he fared noticeably well. Perhaps coming off this severe of an injury has a lot to do with Aboushi still being available at this point in free agency.
Ultimately, the Chargers will need to get creative in how they answer the remaining questions about who will lock down the vacant starting positions across their offensive line. Will it be during the later phase of free agency or will they look at offensive lineman early on in the 2022 NFL Draft, similar to last year when they took Rashawn Slater with the 13th overall pick?
The next couple of weeks should provide clarity on what the Chargers’ offensive line will look like in 2022.
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