SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t exactly make a splash with their first signing in free agency, but they made a solid addition to the offensive line in left tackle Russell Okung, agreeing to a four-year, $53 million deal on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.
Okung played all 16 games for the Denver Broncos in his only season with that team last season and should serve as an upgrade for the Chargers at left tackle in 2017.
ESPN 150 ranking: 23rd
Terms: Four years, $53 million
Grade -- B: I give the move a solid B. King Dunlap played winning football at left tackle for the Chargers at times during his four years with the team. However, Dunlap had trouble staying on the field due to a concussion and leg issues, missing a total of 13 games over the last two seasons. Dunlap turns 32 in September and carries a $5.75 million, non-guaranteed base salary in 2017. Okung is two years younger and brings more pedigree to the position. The No. 6 overall selection of the 2010 draft by the Seattle Seahawks, Okung started at left tackle from day one for the Seahawks. The Oklahoma State product earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season and has 88 career starts in the NFL. However, the price tag appears steep for a 29-year-old offensive lineman.
What it means: While competent as a pass protector, Okung’s strength is playing with a nasty streak and being a road grader in the run game. So perhaps this signing is another signal the Chargers will lean on Melvin Gordon more and run the football. The Chargers ran the ball about 45 percent of the time last season, putting an immense amount of pressure on Philip Rivers to make plays at the end of the game.
What's the risk: Like Dunlap, Okung has had his injury issues over his seven NFL seasons. Okung missed six games his rookie season with high-ankle sprains and four more the following year after tearing a pectoral muscle. And in Okung’s final season in Seattle during the 2015 season, he missed three games due to lower-leg injuries and had shoulder surgery in the offseason after suffering a dislocated left shoulder in a playoff loss against the Carolina Panthers. Okung played all 16 games in a season only once in his seven-year NFL career, last season for the Broncos.