Tackling a Serious Issue

Few teams have bigger needs than San Diego's need for an upgrade at offensive tackle. Jared Gaither is arguably the laziest, least dependable player in the league and Jeromey Clary is a turnstile on the other side. Here is a look at the free-agent tackles the Chargers can realistically push to sign.

The best-case scenario is signing Kansas City Chiefs LT Branden Albert. He has started 71 of 73 games over the last five seasons and comes off a strong year in which he ranked No. 7 at his position in Pass Blocking Efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed just one sack in 2012.

It is unusual that a player of Albert's ability hits the open market. But this has a chance to happen for two reasons: 1) the Chiefs also have to worry about Dwayne Bowe and may opt to use the franchise tag on their No. 1 receiver; and 2) Kansas City knows it can actually upgrade the left tackle position by allowing Albert to walk and using the No. 1 overall pick on Texas A&M standout Luke Joeckel.

OT Branden Albert
Jaime Squire/Getty
New GM Tom Telesco may be reluctant to invest heavily in a veteran left tackle while Jared Gaither is on the books and will count more than $6 million against the salary cap whether he is on the team or not. But the need at tackle is too great to ignore, especially since San Diego is putting $90 million man Philip Rivers at risk every time he is asked to line up behind this porous line.

The chance to fill a glaring void while weakening a division rival is simply a bonus.

If the Chargers whiff on Albert, the best Plan B is Giants LT William Beatty. New York wants Beatty back in a bad way, but Jerry Reese has other free agents to worry about, including DE Osi Umenyiora, WR Hakeem Nicks, S Kenny Phillips and TE Martellus Bennett.

Beatty battled back issues last summer, but was healthy enough to start 15 of 16 games, allowing just three sacks in the process. He has only allowed eight sacks in 31 career starts; Jeromey Clary, by comparison, allowed more sacks than that in just 14 games last season (9.5).

Beatty is no slouch against the run, either. Pro Football Focus gives him the third best run-block grade of any left tackle.

Other options include Gosder Cherilus of the Detroit Lions, a natural right tackle with the pass-protection skills to play on either side of the line; Ryan Harris of the Houston Texans, who has a history with Mike McCoy from their time together in Denver; and Eben Britton of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a guard/tackle who would provide depth more than anything else.

What should the Chargers do with Jared Gaither? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

BoltsReport Top Stories