Clary, 30, is in the final year of a four-year deal that will pay the Kansas State product $4.55 million in total compensation, and counts $6.25 million toward the salary cap for the Chargers in 2014. San Diego already reduced the salaries of veterans Eddie Royal, Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney, along with releasing Derek Cox, Le’Ron McClain and Johnny Patrick.
So why hasn’t the team asked Clary to restructure his contract? According to Pro Football Focus, Clary graded out as the No. 72 guard in the NFL out of 81 qualifiers, so the Chargers can find a cheaper, more effective alternative, right?
Well, maybe there’s a method to Chargers general manager Tom Telesco’s madness in keeping Clary on the roster at his current salary. Let’s explore the possibilities.
Experience in the system: Chargers offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris values players who can consistently perform with the proper technique in his system. Clary was part of an effective offensive line unit for San Diego that did a nice job of protecting Philip Rivers and creating running lanes for Ryan Mathews in 2013. Keeping that continuity together, particularly the communication that occurs between a veteran center like Nick Hardwick and Clary, is important.
Durability: Clary missed just four games due to injury in the last four years. He plays with pain, adds toughness up front and is considered a leader and one of the foundational players on offense by Telesco.
Versatility: Initially drafted to play offensive tackle, Clary can play four of the five offensive line positions. That type of versatility makes offensive line coaches sleep better at night, particularly when most teams only carry eight offensive linemen on game days.
Trade value: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You never know what team might be interested in one of your players heading into the draft. Teams generally have a list of players they are willing to part with in a potential trade to move up or down in a draft. Clary could be player who has value in a draft-day trade with another team looking for veteran offensive line experience.
What are the other options? Johnnie Troutman showed promise in nine regular-season starts last year, but he struggled in his only postseason start against Denver in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs. Rich Ohrnberger is a possibility to return in free agency. But other than that, the Chargers don’t really have a viable option at right guard. But San Diego could select a potential starter in the draft like UCLA’s Xavier Su'a-Filo, creating leverage to negotiate a restructure with Clary.