Three weeks ago, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said that the team’s offensive line situation was keeping him up at night.
While there still could be some change on the unit charged with protecting star quarterback Philip Rivers, there will be some continuity. ESPN.com's John Clayton reports that left tackle Jared Gaither has agreed to a four-year extension with the Chargers.
He joins center Nick Hardwick who re-signed with the Chargers on Tuesday. Unless the Chargers make a change and draft someone like David DeCastro or delve into the deep guard free-agent class, key backup Tyronne Green is expected to replace the recently retired Kris Dielman.
Gaither was an injury replacement for Marcus McNeill last season. The Gaither re-signing means the Chargers will not look to bring back McNeill at a lesser price unless he is desperate and comes back as a backup when he is medically cleared to return from a neck injury.
Gaither is an interesting player. The massive 6-fot-9, 350-pound Gaither was a standout in Baltimore, but he missed all of the 2010 season with a back injury. Oakland tried to sign him last summer but it had injury concerns. He later signed with the Chiefs.
He was slow to get into the groove with the Chiefs and he was cut after making a critical mistake in a game. The Chargers, who were ravaged by injuries on the offensive line, claimed Gaither and he instantly became the player he was in Baltimore prior to his injury. San Diego is counting on him being that player moving forward.
It’s been a busy early free-agency period for San Diego. The team lost star receiver Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay and replaced him with New Orleans’ Robert Meachem. The team will also try to re-sign running back Mike Tolbert and defensive tackle Antonio Garay. Tolbert is visiting the rival Chiefs on Wednesday. San Diego will also want to add some more help in free agency, perhaps adding another receiver, and it wants a pass-rusher. But the offensive line issues are now solved and that was Smith’s biggest worry.