Thoughts on Kris Dielman's retirement

The San Diego Union-Tribune – which reported Monday that San Diego Chargers guard Kris Dielman was expected to retire – now says Dielman will announce his retirement at a press conference Thursday.

Some thoughts on the decision:

Great career: Dielman was an underrated player. He was big, nasty and tough, a reason the Chargers were considered perennial playoff contenders. He set the tone for the line and leaves the game as one of the NFL’s better guards.

Bigger focus on concussions: Concussions have become a lightning rod in the NFL recently. Dielman’s retirement at age 31, in the prime of his career, will be subject of further discussions on the topic. Dielman went on injured reserve after he suffered a concussion – which caused him to stagger on the field – on the road against the New York Jets last October. Dielman suffered a seizure on the flight home that night and had to be hospitalized.

Dielman is reportedly retiring because physicians warned him of potential long-term effects. Concussions are a very real issue in the NFL and this case is more proof that they can prematurely end careers.

What’s next for the Chargers? The Chargers’ offensive line is in flux. In addition to the hole at left guard, the Chargers face potential holes at center and at left tackle — in addition to big needs on defense. Center Nick Hardwick is a free agent. Hardwick wants to return and the Chargers want him back. The team wants to re-sign left tackle Jared Gaither, who excelled after replacing the injured Marcus McNeill. McNeill is expected to be cut in the next week.

The Chargers will have to replace Dielman in-house, in the draft or in free agency. The Chargers will likely look at Stanford guard David DeCastro with their 18th overall pick in April's draft. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay thinks DeCastro is a special talent and could still be on the board when the Chargers select. If not, they could trade down to get another guard; they could also find one in free agency or insert a veteran backup such as Tyronne Green at the spot.

The good news for San Diego is Dielman’s retirement saves the team $5.5 million this season, so it will have more money to spend in free agency. Yet, the reality of seeing a leader and offensive-line anchor like Dielman leave early in his career because of a concussion has to sting.

Congratulations to Dielman on a terrific career and here’s hoping he enjoys retirement in good health.