Free Agency

Matt Slauson Signing Shakes Up O-Line


Tom Telesco has a knack for making impact signings late in the offseason. It happened in 2014, when he picked up Brandon Flowers after his unexpected release from the Chiefs. It happened again in 2015, when he snagged Joe Barksdale after months on the open market.

Over the weekend, Telesco struck again.

The Chargers have agreed to terms with veteran offensive lineman Matt Slauson to a two-year deal, reports ESPN’s Adam Caplan. Slauson was released by the Bears after Chicago spent a second-round pick on Kansas State guard (and Jeromey Clary doppelgänger) Cody Whitehair.

Slauson started all 16 games last season, including 12 at center and four at guard. He finished the season as the league’s fifth-ranked center, according to Pro Football Focus, and allowed just one sack. His PFF Grade (86.2) is nearly four times better than that of Trevor Robinson (23.4), who started 13 games at the hub position last season.

While Slauson’s talent and productivity are undeniable, his immediate role is a little less clear.

More likely than not, Slauson will step in as the starting center. That will allow third-round pick Max Tuerk, who is working his way back from ACL surgery, to take his time working his way into the starting lineup.

Chris Watt, the 2014 third-round pick who began last season as the starting center, will be the one most impacted by the move. Watt could join the mix at guard, which was his college position, or he could battle Tuerk for the backup center position.

Because Watt and Tuerk both have experience at center and guard, it’s possible the Chargers will keep both and employ just two backups on the interior O-line. Reserve tackle Chris Hairston can also slide inside to guard in a pinch.

These are all just details, though. What is important is the Chargers added a seven-year veteran who has started 85 of 88 career games. They get a competitor who has started all 16 games in five of the last six seasons. And, most importantly, they get more competition and depth for an offensive line in desperate need of both.

Slauson, a 2009 sixth-round pick who spent his first four seasons with the Jets before joining the Bears, is the first outside veteran free agent to join San Diego’s offensive line this offseason. The Chargers also spent two draft picks on the position, picking Tuerk in the third round and Michigan State’s Donavon Clark in the seventh.

Clark is now all but certain to begin his career on the practice squad.

About Michael Lombardo

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

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