What was surprising is that the Chargers released LG Chad Rinehart. Rinehart played every offensive snap last season, although he suffered through a mostly disappointing campaign. He was inconsistent in pass protection, allowing four sacks, and was part of a line that caused San Diego to average a conference-low 3.4 yards per carry.
San Diego saves a little more than $3 million by releasing Rinehart.
The corresponding moves answer one question and raise another.
It answers the question of where Franklin will play in San Diego, as there was some thought he would return to right tackle, bumping D.J. Fluker inside to guard. Now, we know Franklin will take over for Rinehart at left guard, the same position he played last season in Denver.
“I’m coming in to play left guard,” he told Chargers.com. “They told me they don’t want me to do anything more or less than what I did for Denver. They like my style of play, and I’m going to come in and give it 110 percent every play that I’m out there. I pride myself on getting down the field after the ball is thrown. That is how I’ve played since high school. I like to get downfield and celebrate. Football is the ultimate sport, and it’s the only thing I know in this world basically where you can zone out for three hours and not be worried about anything else going on in the world. So I’m definitely excited to be doing that the next five years for the Chargers.”
It raises this question: who will start at right guard?
The initial expectation was that Rinehart and Johnnie Troutman would compete for a starting job at guard. It is unlikely the Chargers are willing to just write in Troutman as a starter after an up-and-down season in which he rotated with Chris Watt at right guard. Watt, who will start at center, will not be available to step in if Troutman struggles.
The Chargers will likely select a guard in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft, which possibilities including Laken Tomlinson (Duke), A.J. Cann (South Carolina) and Tre Jackson (Florida State).
While the depth chart at guard is to be determined, it has been all but settled at center. The Chargers on Tuesday re-signed restricted free agent Trevor Robinson to a two-year deal to brings him back as Watt’s backup. Robinson, who played college ball with Watt at Notre Dame, played well as a fill-in last season and played a major part in comeback wins over the Ravens and 49ers.
The Chargers restored some depth on the other line, as well, signing a new one-year deal with DE Ricardo Mathews. The Cincinnati product exceeded expectations after joining the Chargers after last season’s training camp (he was among the final cuts by the Houston Texans). San Diego was familiar with his game, as he was a seventh-round pick of the Colts in 2010 when Telesco was still in Indianapolis.
Mathews played in 12 games last season, starting two, and finished with 25 tackles, 1.5 sacks, six TFLs and two forced fumbles. His playing time increases as the season progressed, as he won over defensive coordinator John Pagano with his high energy and relentless playing style.
All these moves follow two key moves earlier in the week, when the Chargers signed KR Jacoby Jones to a two-year deal and retained CB Brandon Flowers with a new four-year agreement.
Was releasing Rinehart the right move? Join the debate inside our message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com team. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since '03. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.
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