SAN DIEGO -- With center Nick Hardwick and guard Jeromey Clary retiring, the revamping of the offensive line for the San Diego Chargers is in full swing. Finding key replacements for those two this offseason will be important for general manager Tom Telesco and head coach Mike McCoy.
The good: The Chargers started five different players at center and five different starting offensive line combinations, but they still managed to have a shot at the playoffs heading into the final regular-season game at Kansas City. King Dunlap developed into one of the better left tackles in the NFL, and rookie Chris Watt proved that he could play guard or center at a winning level. Dunalp, Fluker and Rinehart started every game in 2014, while Troutman only missed one start due to injury.
The bad: San Diego failed to consistently run the football, and at times had trouble protecting quarterback Philip Rivers. Fluker regressed as a pass protector in his second season, and the Chargers got inconsistent line play at both guard positions.
The money: Rinehart will make $2.35 million in total compensation in the final year of his contract in 2015, but he could be asked to restructure based on his 2014 performance. Fluker is scheduled to make a little over $1.4 million in base salary in the third year of his rookie deal. The key for Telesco will be putting together a deal that keeps Dunlap from reaching free agency, where the price tag could get higher than the Chargers want to spend. Trevor Robinson also did a nice job as fill-in player at center and is a restricted free agent.
Draft priority: High. Along with keeping Dunlap, the Chargers need to add another foundational player at tackle and interior line, either through the draft or free agency. LSU’s La’el Collins, Miami’s Ereck Flowers and Duke’s Laken Tomlinson make some sense in the draft, while Bryan Bulaga of the Green Bay Packers or Rob Sims of the Detroit Lions would be possible fits in free agency.