Chargers position outlook: Offensive line

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
12:45
PM ET
Center Nick Hardwick played at a Pro Bowl level in 2013, anchoring a San Diego Chargers offensive line that served as the foundation of one of the best offenses in the NFL. But the Chargers need to add a couple of developmental prospects to an aging group in the interior of the offensive line.

Lock: D.J. Fluker, King Dunlap, Johnnie Troutman
Looking good: Hardwick, Mike Harris
On the bubble: Jeromey Clary, Nick Becton, Kenny Wiggins, Willie Smith, Stephen Schilling
Free agents: Chad Rinehart, Rich Ohrnberger

The good: The Chargers used six different starting offensive line combinations and played five different players at left tackle. With the starting roster shuffling, San Diego’s offensive line still played at a high level, which is a testament to the teaching skills of offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris.

The bad: The only player to start every game in 2013, Hardwick turns 33 in September and is considering retirement after playing hurt most of the season. After doing a nice job of protecting Philip Rivers during the regular season, the Chargers struggled to protect the veteran signal-caller against Denver in the playoffs.

The money: Like Hardwick, Clary played through injuries, missing just one game during the regular season in 2013. Clary provided a tough guy persona with his physical play up front. The Kansas State product is considered one of the team’s core players on offense, but he turns 31 in November and is due to make $4.55 million in total compensation in 2014. The Chargers also will be waiting for a decision on whether Hardwick will retire. Hardwick is set to make $4.4 million in total compensation in 2014.

Draft priority: High. The Chargers have two pretty solid bookends at tackle in Dunlap and Fluker, but need to bring in young talent in the interior of the offensive line, particularly at center if Hardwick decides to retire. Bringing back Rinehart in free agency makes some sense. He played solid at left guard when healthy, and should be relatively inexpensive to re-sign.

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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