Wow! What a perfect time for me to get to the Free Agent Lineman that the Chargers could be targeting. Tom Telesco was just on the right side of a pretty lopsided trade when he sent a disgruntled Russell Okung over to the Panthers for 5-time Pro-Bowler Trai Turner. This most certainly means the the Chargers are all in on a Tackle in free agency, possibly 2.
Telesco just cleared about $3M in cap space, got younger and more aggressive in the trenches, and solved the issue of losing Michael Schofield to free agency. Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney will be in a exciting battle for LG for two players going into a contract year. The biggest issue that remains is solving the issues at both Tackle positions, and what a year to do it. This is a pretty strong class of tackles in both Free agency and in the draft, specifically on the right side. Without further ado, here is a list of notable free agent lineman:
- Bryan Bulaga – Green Bay Packers
- Jack Conklin – Tennessee Titan
- Marcus Gilbert – Arizona Cardinals
- Daryl Williams – Carolina Panthers
- DeMar Dotson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Germain Ifedi – Seattle Seahawks
- Jason Veldheer – Green Bay Packers
- LaAdrian Waddle – Buffalo Bills
- Donald Penn – Washington Redskins
- Andre Smith – Baltimore Ravens
- Dennis Kelly – Tennessee Titans
- Mike Remmers – New York Giants
- Andrew Whiteworth – Los Angeles Rams
- Anthony Costonzo – Indianapolis Colts
- Kelvin Beachum – New York Jets
- Jason Peters – Philadelphia Eagles
- Greg Robinson – Cleveland Browns
- DJ Humphries – Arizona Cardinals
- H. Vaitai – Philadelphia Eagles
The number one target on this list has to be Jack Conklin. According to PFF, Conklin was the league’s 6th best Right Tackle and 12th best starting Tackle overall, with a 78.0 overall grade. He allowed 4 sacks, 4 hits and 22 hurries. He is a fine pass protector, but really excels in the run with an aggressive demeanor. Whoever he goes to is going to pay big bucks. He’s my number one free agent target this offseason as the biggest need with the most skill at the needed position.
Only 26 years old, Conklin is just going into his prime. To be able to watch both Conklin and Trai Turner on the same side, at the same age, for the next 4 years would be a dream come true. To sign Conklin would mean spending upwards of $15-17M/ year on a long-term contract. As scary as that would be, it would shore up the teams biggest issue. In all honesty, I’d do it and lock him up for the next 4-5 years, especially with the potential need for a blindside blocker at Right Tackle for a specific lefty come April. Get your Man!
This one makes sense from the perspective that James Campen is now the Offensive Line Coach for the Chargers. Bryan Bulaga played under Campen for the majority of his career in Green Bay, so if I had to say who the most likely signing of this offseason is, I’d put money on Bulaga. He’s a veteran who is starting to age at 31 years old, but he is still part of the upper echelon of players at his position. He is basically an older Conklin and looking at his PFF stats, they are nearly identical. He is my #2 target in free agency, and he may not demand quite as high a salary, or the long term deal. Knowing Tom Telesco, this probably fits more the coupon deal that fits his approach to free agency.
For a player who was from the same draft class as Philip Rivers, Jason Peters is the oldest player on any list that I would consider signing. He is 38 years old, and he has a special story. The un-drafted, rookie free agent Tight End, turned perineal, All-Pro Left Tackle, with with 9 pro bowls and a Super Bowl ring to add to his resume, is still somehow competing at a position that takes real punishment. Also, he is still playing well, when he isn’t injured. Yes, he’s injury prone. Yes, he is 38, but Peters is the perfect player to help groom Trey Pipkins, and to be a placeholder for Pipkins to learn under until he’s ready to take over. He shouldn’t cost a ton either.
Wait, another high 30’s Left Tackle? Again, I understand your concerns, but the Bolts do need a player to fill the void that is Left Tackle. Ideally, they look to the draft, but Trey Pipkins was drafted to eventually take over Left Tackle. I’m just not sure he’s ready yet. Drafting a Tackle early this year seems like a waste of last year’s 3rd-round pick, especially if you do sign Conklin, Bulaga or some other Right Tackle in free agency. Whitworth is just another placeholder with excellent pass-blocking skills.
Dennis Kelly/ Jason Veldheer.
Both players played backup to the top 2 players listed above. Both players filled in nicely when asked to do so. Both players will likely re-sign with the Titans and Packers as the new starters, but in the event they do not… This would be very Tom Telesco in finding quality players at a fraction of the price. This would be a very King Dunlap or Joe Barksdale type-of-move. I’m not for it, but neither am I against it. This would be about not over spending for players and being financially-conscious, so it makes sense from a business perspective. It’s not fun, but it’s responsible. I get it.
Overall, every player on the list above is a potential target in free agency. Some players grade out better than others, but every player would be an improvement on who currently sits on the roster. The Bolts could definitely be in the market for Tackles drafted high in the draft. Honestly, that’s the best option, but Free Agency is an option as well.
I am pretty sure that the team has no plans to address guards in free agency. Trai Turner is the plug-and-play Right Guard. The battle between Feeney and Lamp heads into year 3. They could draft another, but doubtful they go after another big name. Center will likely be Pouncey and/Quessenberry and a draft pick for depth. Feeney also has experience at Center.
Ideal Scenario: The Chargers sign Jack Conklin to a 5-year, $80M($16M/yr) with hard out year 3 and easy out in year 4 or Bryan Bulaga to a 3-year, $36M ($12M/yr), with an out after year 2.