Offensive Line Starts to Take Shape

The Chargers added another piece to their offensive line puzzle on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with OG Chad Rinehart on a one-year deal. He will be reunited with offensive line coaches Joe D'Alessandris and Andrew Dees. Here is a closer look at this addition and what it means to the offensive line.

Chad Rinehart missed most of 2012 with an ankle injury, but he has 21 starts scattered across the past four seasons and has done a nice job when pressed into duty. He can play on either side of the line and is efficient in the zone-blocking scheme San Diego is expected to implement.

The addition of Rinehart came a day after news broke of the Chargers intent to sign OT King Dunlap, who on Wednesday inked a two-year pact. The massive Dunlap can play any position except for center, but is expected to play tackle in San Diego and compete for time on both sides of the line.

If the season started today -- which thankfully for the Chargers, it does not -- the starting offensive line from left to right would be: Jared Gaither, Johnnie Troutman, Nick Hardwick, Rinehart and Dunlap.

The additions of Rinehart and Dunlap -- mid-level veterans with modest contracts -- indicate new GM Tom Telesco intends to repair the offensive line primarily through the draft.

For example, say Telesco uses his first-rounder on Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson and his second-rounder on Oregon OG Kyle Long. Johnson becomes the starter at left tackle, Gaither and/or Clary gets released and Dunlap likely returns to his more natural role as swing tackle. Rinehart starts at left guard (to avoid two rookies playing next to each other) and Long and Troutman compete at right guard.

There are more variables still in play. Will the Chargers add RT Eric Winston, a player with whom they visited earlier this week? Will they bring back Tyronne Green, who has started as many games over the last two years (21) as Rinehart has over the last four?

There is a lot still to be settled. But impatient fans must wait a little bit longer, because the answers they are seeking are unlikely to arrive before April's draft.

Lightning Quicks

--The Chargers agreed to terms with former Jacksonville Jaguars CB Derek Cox on a four-year, $20 million contract on Wednesday evening. San Diego is aggressively pursuing cornerbacks as incumbents Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer are both free agents. Cason is set to visit the Arizona Cardinals and has also drawn interest from the Cleveland Browns. While a return to San Diego is unlikely, it is impossible to rule out just yet.

It would be a double-whammy if the Cardinals nab Cason, as Arizona already picked up CB Jerraud Powers one day before he was scheduled to visit with the Chargers.

Cox, a four-year veteran out of William & Mary, has started 45 games over the last four seasons. His career totals include 170 total tackles, 32 pass break-ups and 12 INTs (four each in 2009, 2010 and 2012). He is a playmaking defender whose biggest drawback is a lack of durability; he has missed 17 games over the last three seasons due to an assortment of injuries.

--Many Chargers fans are still bitter about the team's decision to release Wes Welker in 2004. Things won't get any easier now, as Welker has joined division front-runner Denver on a two-year deal. He has caught more than 100 passes in five of the last six seasons while with the New England Patriots.

What are your thoughts on the Rinehart signing? Discuss in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the 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.

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