Free agent targets: Offensive line
It’s no secret or surprise that the biggest need for the Chargers going into the offseason is the offensive line and mainly at the tackle position. Now when we took a look at the free agent fits for defensive tackle the talent pool was deep. Unfortunately when it comes to the offensive line talent pool in free agency it is a bit different and top heavy. Due to this fact I will be combining all offensive lineman into one article rather than having it separated by position.
The biggest name out there at the tackle position due to hit free agency is left tackle Anthony Castonzo. I will not be including him in this list due to his recent comments, stating that he was either going to retire or remain with the Colt’s. So anyone salivating at the idea of acquiring Castonzo should reel it back in.
The most needed position along the Chargers offensive line is right tackle and it just so happens that Conklin is the best of the bunch in free agency this year. While he is known more of a run blocking specialist (80.5 grade), his pass blocking while not great isn’t too shabby either (72.4). In fact his pass blocking grade was higher than any offensive lineman on the Chargers roster this past season. He allowed a total of 4 sacks on a total of 541 total pass protection snaps with 7 penalties on 933 total overall snaps played. It is also of note that he tore his ACL in the 2018 divisional round which makes his 2019 performance a little better. Before I talk him up too much Pro football focus also points out that he is 14th highest amongst tackles receiving the most help with double team blocks. Undoubtedly this is to help his deficiency in the pass blocking department. Still Conklin will only be 26 going into next season so theoretically he isn’t even in his prime yet. After the success the Titans had this past season and mainly in the run game, it is unclear if the team would be willing to let him test free agency.
Brandon Scherrf has been a guy who has battled injuries over his career otherwise he would be more heralded. When healthy he is one of the best run blocking guards in the NFL and would present a huge upgrade for the Chargers. While his pass protection grade doesn’t jump out at you (72.0) it is of note that he is much more successful in “true pass sets”. What is a true pass set? It basically means no play action or RPO (run pass option) so this would likely be taken into consideration with his new team.
It’s no surprise that a New England player finished in the top 5 overall at his position in the grading system. This time it was Thuney and he graded as the 5th best guard to be exact with a 77.4 overall grade and an 87.4 pass blocking grade. His pass blocking was 3rd best overall out of all lineman positions. This should be the eye popping stat here as this was the exact department the team is looking to upgrade in. The only worrisome part of signing Thuney would be that historically lineman that have had success in New England usually don’t live up to the same standard once they go elsewhere. He would however bring winning championship experience to a unit that desperately needs it. He is also young at the age of 27 and considered one of the more athletic guards in the league.
One player who could make sense due to the fact that the Chargers new offensive line coach has a lot of familiarity with him is Bulaga. Seeing as how they both are coming from Green Bay and working directly with each other it seems to make sense. This could also just be a lazy and or easy connection to make. Bulaga is 30 now and isn’t the most athletic tackle yet has been a consistent force during his time with the Packers. In his 9 seasons he has averaged a 71.3 grade. While some consistency would be nice at the position, for the likely price tag I would rather try to land someone who is more of a game changer. However with the state of the team’s current offensive line it would still make sense.
Peat is a player that the Saints are almost guaranteed to lose in free agency. A first round pick out of Stanford, Peat is just 26 years of age and with two pro bowl nominations to his name. The Saints simply don’t have the money to retain him and will likely be seeking a big payday. While I believe Peat would be a good addition to the Chargers I would also be cautious about not over paying him. Peat was never a powerful type lineman and known more for his finesse and the Chargers are in need of bruisers. In fact Pro football focus hasn’t taken kindly to Peat the last two seasons coming in with a 48.7 overall grade. While this would be a good addition it would also depend on the price tag.
Spriggs is an interesting case as he is more of a “low risk high reward” type of addition. Spriggs was selected in the second round by Green bay and is a former teammate of Dan Feeney. Spriggs would come at a low cost because he was a bit misused in Green Bay but not for a lack of poor play. He had suffered a few injuries in his career and was ultimately stuck behind fellow free agent Bryan Bulaga. In fact Bulaga was brought back a few years back due to Rodgers demanding it of management. To put things into perspective Spriggs handling hasn’t been a whole lot different from that of Forrest Lamp. As I mentioned before with Bulaga ,Spriggs could also be a fit because of previous work and familiarity with the teams new offensive line coach. In fact Spriggs could just be in need of a change of scenery and if it doesn’t pan out could easily be cut prior to the beginning of the season.
Even at the old age of 38 peters is still playing at a very high level. In fact just this past season Peters graded out as the 6th best tackle in the entire NFL with a 83.4 overall grade to go along with his 86.7 pass blocking grade. This is a very impressive feat regardless of age. Signing a guy like Peters obviously isn’t a long term solution but it gives the team a high quality tackle along with extra time to be able to find a viable long term solution. I would call that a win win situation. Peters brings consistency as his worst season ever by him was better than any other lineman the Chargers had last year on the roster. His worst season he graded out with a 71 overall grade and that was because he played through some hampering injuries. I normally wouldn’t like the idea of signing someone of this age but this offensive line is in need of as much help as it can get.