Chargers need Russell Okung to play to potential, stay healthy

The Chargers brought in left tackle Russell Okung to protect Philip Rivers' blind side. Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- A breakdown of the first week of free agency for the Los Angeles Chargers:

Most significant signing: The Chargers sought to upgrade left tackle and accomplished that by signing Russell Okung. Although the four-year, $53 million deal that included $25 million in guaranteed money was likely more expensive than anticipated, the move allowed the Chargers to move on from King Dunlap. Now, Okung, who turns 30 in October, will have to prove reliable and durable as the blindside protector of quarterback Philip Rivers over the next two seasons.

Most significant loss: The Chargers lost an important piece to the offense when third-down back Danny Woodhead signed a three-year, $8.8 million deal to join the Baltimore Ravens that included over $4.25 million in guaranteed money. Woodhead missed most of the 2016 season with an ACL knee injury, which affected the Chargers’ execution on third down and in the red zone. However, Woodhead’s absence allowed Melvin Gordon to develop into an every-down back and earn the trust of Rivers in those situations the Chargers previously used Woodhead, which should help them in 2017.

Player they should have signed: The Chargers could have used an experienced, designated pass-rusher to go with bookends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Julius Peppers would have been a nice get in free agency. Of course, Peppers, who spent the past three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, chose to return home and sign a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. The Chargers still could use an experienced pass-rusher on a limited snap count like they had in Dwight Freeney a couple of years ago.

What’s next: Now that we’re in the second wave of free agency, look for the Chargers to find diamonds in the rough who could fill in depth at thin positions. The Chargers could use a slot defender, along with more depth at receiver, running back and the offensive line. Expect those positions to be an area of focus for the Chargers during the rest of the free agency period and the draft.

Overall grade: B. The top priority for the Chargers was retaining talented edge rusher Melvin Ingram, and general manager Tom Telesco accomplished that by placing the franchise tag on the South Carolina product. Still, the Chargers have to work toward signing Ingram to a long-term deal. Securing Okung and improving the pass protection up front also was a priority. Telesco did a nice job of retaining some core, in-house free agents, including safety Jahleel Addae, long-snapper Mike Windt, reserve quarterback Kellen Clemens and defensive lineman Damion Square.