Free Agency

Should the Chargers Make a Play for Ronald Leary?

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As we saw last season, the Chargers can never have enough talented offensive linemen. GM Tom Telesco has faced that reality head-on this offseason, signing veteran Matt Slauson and drafting Max Tuerk and Donavon Clark in the third and seventh rounds, respectively.

There is a chance Telesco is not done yet.

Cowboys guard Ronald Leary has requested trade, according to an NFL.com report. The veteran could intrigue the Chargers, who have little established depth on the interior line despite the additions mentioned above.

As it stands now, San Diego’s top backup guards are Tuerk (coming off ACL surgery), Chris Watt (15 missed games over the last two seasons) and Kenny Wiggins (the league’s No. 71 ranked guard, according to Pro Football Focus).

Leary was replaced in the starting lineup last October by road-grading rookie La’El Collins. The demotion caused Leary to fall all the way out of Dallas’ rotation, as he has no experience at center.

Leary started 31 games for the Cowboys between 2013-2014. In his last season as a full-time starter, he allowed just four sacks (half as many as San Diego’s reigning Lineman of the Year allowed in 2015) and helped pave the way for DeMarco Murray to win the rushing title by an incredible 484 yards.

Leary began this offseason as a restricted free agent, but signed his one-year, $2.553 million tender prior to the draft to help facilitate a trade.

In San Diego, Leary would provide quality insurance behind Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker, who combined to miss 10 games last season. In fact, if Franklin plays like he did last year (he was the No. 78 ranked guard per PFF, grading out even lower than Wiggins), Leary could outright supplant him in the starting lineup.

Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed to ESPN.com the Cowboys received feelers on Leary during the draft, but refused to “give away” the talented lineman. While a seventh-round pick may not move the needle, Leary could likely be had for a conditional 2017 sixth-round pick that could become a fifth-rounder based on playing time.

The Chargers and Cowboys have been trading partners in the past. Current nose tackle Sean Lissemore was acquired in a trade with Dallas back in 2013 (in exchange for a 2015 seventh-round pick). Back in 2002, the Chargers landed guard Kelvin Garmon (a similar player to Leary) by sending Dallas a future seventh-round pick.

Could another deal be in the works? At this point, it seems unlikely. The Chargers may have to outbid the Titans — who recently lost backup guard Byron Bell for the season — and give up on Watt in order for this trade to come together.

Then again, given how San Diego has seen its last two seasons submarined by a lack of depth on the offensive line, it will be difficult to overlook such a talented lineman who has suddenly (and tantalizingly) become available.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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