For the second time in less than three months, the San Diego Chargers have addressed the long-term stability of their offensive line, signing third-year veteran right tackle Shane Olivea on Wednesday to an extension through the 2011 season.
The deal, which makes Olivea the sixth-highest paid right tackle in the league when the so-called "new money" is calculated, is worth $20 million and incentives could push the value to $24 million. Between bonuses and salary, Olivea, 24, will earn $8 million in the first year of the deal.
"When my agent called me to tell me that the deal was done, I was physically shaking," Olivea said in a statement released by the team. "Every sprint, every extra push-up, every extra lift and every time I decided to go workout instead of going to a party or something … everything was validated today. Today made it worth it."
Olivea was entering the final season of the three-year, $960,250 contract he signed with the Chargers as a rookie in 2004. Without the extension, he would have been eligible for restricted free agency next spring. San Diego officials have been negotiating the extension with agent Kenny Zuckerman for several weeks.
The Chargers in mid-June signed center Nick Hardwick, also a third-year veteran, to an extension through the 2011 season. That deal was worth $17 million in new money and included $5 million in bonuses. San Diego officials are also in extension discussions with standout guard Kris Dielman.
With the recent extensions, and the selection of former Auburn star tackle Marcus McNeill in the second round of this year's draft, the Chargers are building a young line filled with potential Pro Bowl players. McNeill, who signed a four-year contract, is lining up with the first-team offense, and could be the Chargers' starting left tackle on opening day.
Clearly, general manager A.J. Smith knows the value of a solid line and the importance of continuity on the blocking unit.
A seventh-round pick in the 2004 draft, Olivea is arguably one of the biggest steals in any draft over the last several years. The former Ohio State standout won the No. 1 job at right tackle as a rookie, and has been the starter there for all but one game over the past two seasons. He was an all-rookie selection by several media outlets in 2004.
Olivea is a strong run blocker with fast-improving pass-protection skills.
The signing of Olivea is just the latest move by Smith to lock up a talented young player with a long-term contract. In addition to Olivea and Hardwick, the Chargers earlier this offseason signed wide receiver Eric Parker, cornerback Quentin Jammer and linebacker Stephen Cooper to extensions.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.