Season in Review: Offensive Tackles

Vaughn Parker had perhaps his best season in the NFL as he schooled defensive ends and helped solidify the line in the running and passing game. Damion McIntosh emerged as a young stud lineman who could become the anchor of a good line for years to come. A weak link no more, the line set out to prove the critics wrong, and the results speak for themselves.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Vaughn Parker, in his ninth NFL season, was having perhaps his best ever until a triceps tear in week 9 in St. Louis sent him to the operating room. After four weeks of recovery he returned to action. At 6-3, 300 pounds, Parker has become a consistent blocker who was able to mentor the young Toniu Fonoti at right guard and provide stability to the right side of the line.

Parker has the strength to be a great force in the running game driving opponents off the line to go with good footwork. He also possesses the technique to be solid in pass blocking schemes. The team of him and Fonoti provided the best gaps for LaDainian Tomlinson to run through during the season.

When Parker was out those four games due to injury they only mustered a paltry 1.9 yards per carry when they ran between the right guard and tackle. To put that in perspective, they averaged 4.6 yards per carry in the games he played. That is a hefty difference.

The problem is Parker is now entering the final year of contract that will pay him $3.5 million in a base salary. For a Charger team that is looking to get under the cap, Parker may be headed towards the door. With Cory Raymer signed for four more years it is unlikely that he will go, and Raymer is athletic enough, having the same build as Parker, to take over at the tackle position on a full time basis.

I am not sure I advocate getting rid of Parker, and a young offensive tackle will probably be picked in the draft to groom, the question remains on what to do with Raymer and Jason Ball. Logically they both will be on the roster, and they have proven they can start. It may come at the expense of Parker.

Damion McIntosh played in 10 games in 2002. He fell victim to an ankle injury that would not submit to treatment. After playing the first 8 games, he was lost for three, came back for two, and then missed the final three.

McIntosh has solidified the left tackle position for what appears to be years to come. Finishing up his third year in the league, the 6-4, 325 pound McIntosh has developed into a solid tackle. Consider that he only played one season at offensive tackle in college and see that there is only room for improvement. McIntosh was originally a defensive tackle in college before being moved to the left tackle spot as a junior. He has been able to use his agility to fend off pass rushers and his strength at the point of attack has been vital to the success of the running game. Having played defense he is also well versed in the types of attacks he will face and can use his superior footwork to direct oncoming defenders as he chooses.

McIntosh is a restricted free agent, "Players with three years of NFL experience. Like an unrestricted free agent they are free to negotiate with any team however the current team has the right to match any offer and if they do so they retain the rights to the player. Failure to meet the offer means the player is awarded to the new team but the new team must give the old team compensation in the form of draft picks."

Look for the Chargers to lock up McIntosh to a long term deal as they look to keep the young emerging star in the fold. Restricted status is also contingent upon him receiving a "qualifying" offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players) from the Chargers. He can negotiate with any club through April 15. Then, because of the qualifying offer, his rights revert exclusively to his old club on April 15. Prior to April 16, if the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new club, his old club can match the offer and retain him because it has the "right of first refusal." If the old club does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer.

Drew Brees can thank McIntosh and Parker for him being sacked just 24 times during the season.

Sammy Williams showed his versatility by starting games at both right and left tackle. He ended the season with seven starts, four in place of Parker at right tackle, and three in place of McIntosh on the left side. In total he saw action in the final 12 games of the season after sitting the first four out.

Williams has shown he can be a decent backup. While not a top flight tackle, he is strong enough in the run game to lend support. He has had difficulty with speedier ends and does not have the footwork to defend against edge rushers. Still he is a quality backup and should be retained if possible.

Williams is an unrestricted free agent, a player with four years or more of NFL experience who can sign with their own team or any other team in the NFL. If he leaves the Chargers, the team that signs him can do so without having to award San Diego team compensation. Williams had a base salary of $450K in 2002 and as a 5 year pro will command at least $525K with $450 counting against the teams cap. $75K is allocated as a "Players Benefit" and will be paid out of the league wide benefit pool.

Ed Ellis, who we commonly refer to as "Offsides" Ellis, played in 15 games this season and nabbed three starts replacing an injured McIntosh at left tackle. Ellis was primarily used on special teams and in goal line situations as an eligible receiver/tight end.

In his first start in St. Louis, he committed four penalties, three of which were false starts, and one a 15-yard face mask penalty. At 6-7, 325 pounds, he must compensate for his lack of good feet by getting a quick jump off the ball, which is the main reason he was flagged for four false starts penalties in his three starts.

With the Chargers choosing to place Williams in the left tackle spot at the end of the season, the fate of Ellis may have been sealed. He is under contract for one more year at $575K, and if no better option is available, he may stick. If anything he will be a late cut, after matters have been settled along the line.

Up Next: DEFENSIVE ENDS

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