Adding versatile performer Orlando Franklin upgrades Chargers' O-line

SAN DIEGO -- Providing better protection for QB Philip Rivers has been a point of emphasis for San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco this offseason.

Telesco appears to have taken a step in that direction, putting the framework of a deal in place that would bring Denver Broncos offensive lineman Orlando Franklin into the fold.

Rivers played through back and rib injuries in 2014. He was sacked 36 times, No. 10 in the NFL. The Chargers threw the football 57 percent of the time in 2014, compared to 51 percent in 2013, when San Diego had more balance. Rivers threw a league-high 544 times from the shotgun.

The Chargers averaged just 3.2 yards per attempt on first-down runs last season, second-worst in the NFL.

Franklin started 16 games at left guard for a revamped Broncos offensive line in 2014, but he played his first three seasons at right tackle. He missed only one start in four seasons with the Broncos.

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold reports that most NFL personnel executives believe Franklin is a better fit at guard.

That versatility should serve Franklin well in San Diego, as Chargers offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris looks to revamp the front five after the recent retirement of center Nick Hardwick and guard Jeromey Clary.

The Chargers started five different centers and used five different starting offensive line combinations in 2014, so establishing some continuity up front will be important. King Dunlap returns as San Diego’s left tackle, and the team appears to have settled on second-year pro Chris Watt at center.

Telesco told reporters at the scouting combine that D.J. Fluker will remain at right tackle for now, which means Franklin could start out at left guard, with Chad Rinehart possibly shifting over to the right side to compete with Johnnie Troutman for the right guard spot.

However, a lot can happen during the offseason and training camp. And D’Alessandris indicated he will use the offseason to figure out the best combination up front.

Whether Franklin plays guard or tackle, he provides an upgrade in talent and experience for the Chargers up front, with the added benefit of San Diego taking a good player away from AFC West rival Denver.