Chargers position outlook 2017: Succession plan needed for King Dunlap

SAN DIEGO -- GM Tom Telesco stood pat instead of addressing the San Diego Chargers' issues along the offensive line last year. However, this offseason Telesco has to figure out a way to get more consistent production from this group in 2017.

Locks: Matt Slauson, Joe Barksdale, Orlando Franklin, Max Tuerk

On the bubble: King Dunlap, D.J. Fluker, Chris Hairston, Tyreek Burwell, Spencer Pulley, Brett Boyko, Donavon Clark, Tyler Johnstone.

Free agents: Kenny Wiggins

The good: After using 24 different offensive line combinations in 2015, the front five started 12 of the 16 games in 2016. So, injuries were not as much of an issue for this group as it was two years ago. Slauson solidified the center position, playing 970 snaps, most for any of the Chargers' offensive linemen. He should serve as the anchor for this unit again in 2017. Although they struggled at times in pass protection, the Chargers’ sack per pass attempt rate was actually No. 17 in the NFL. Melvin Gordon finished just short of 1,000 rushing yards with 997. Only 12 backs totaled 1,000 rushing yards this season. So, the Chargers' top back proved effective running the football in 2016, and the offensive line deserves some credit for that.

The bad: The only offensive lineman to start every game in 2015, Barksdale experienced a dip in play in 2016. Barksdale led the Chargers with 10 penalties called on him this past season, including seven false starts. Although Gordon found running room, the Chargers still averaged just 3.8 yards per rush as a team, No. 25 in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, the offensive line gave up 238 total QB pressures for the second-lowest pass-blocking efficiency mark in the league. The analytics-based website also rated the Chargers’ offensive line the second-worst in the NFL last season, which I disagreed with here. The Chargers selected Tuerk in the third round of last year’s draft but he wasn’t active for any of the 16 games in his rookie season. Tuerk needs to continue to gain weight and earn a role on the field in 2017.

The money: Franklin’s $6 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the new league year in March. Barksdale is scheduled to make $4.5 million in base salary in 2017, $3 million of which is fully guaranteed. Slauson is scheduled to make $1.5 million in 2017, none of which is guaranteed. Fluker’s $8.8 million, fifth-year option is fully guaranteed if he’s on the Chargers’ roster on the first day of free agency in March, so Telesco has a big decision to make there. Fluker’s play has been up and down since joining the team as a first-round selection in 2013, but he’s only missed five games during his four-year NFL career. Hairston is set to make $1.525 million in 2017, none of which is guaranteed. Wiggins is a restricted free agent and likely will be back. Wiggins can play all five positions along the offensive line and provides solid depth.

Draft priority: How the offensive line is configured for the upcoming season will depend on the evaluation over the next month by Telesco, head coach Anthony Lynn, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and new offensive line coach Pat Meyer. One issue they will have to address is King Dunlap. When healthy, Dunlap has been solid as Philip Rivers’ blindside protector. However, Dunlap turns 32 in September and has missed 13 games over the past two seasons due to injuries. Dunlap carries a $5.75 million, non-guaranteed base salary in 2017. So the Chargers have to develop a succession plan for Dunlap, which likely means selecting a left tackle of the future in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, Alabama’s Cam Robinson or Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton could make some sense for the Chargers.