Will RT Joe Barksdale be a Charger in 2018?
By Matt Pagels
Los Angeles Chargers RT Joe Barksdale is on the books for two more years. Should the Bolts keep the veteran lineman or cut him loose?
There are four players under contract for the 2018 season whose recent play has warranted some criticism. We discussed what to do with wide receiver Travis Benjamin and defensive linemen Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane.
Now, it’s time to weigh in on right tackle Joe Barksdale’s situation.
Barksdale was a 2011 third-round pick. Oakland gave up on him after just one season. St. Louis picked up the former LSU Tiger, and he proved to be quite serviceable. He played for the Rams for three seasons, including starting 29 of 32 games from 2013-14.
Barksdale tested free agency in 2015 and settled for a one-year deal with the San Diego Chargers late in the offseason. It was a low-risk, high-reward type of move for general manager Tom Telesco–and it paid off for both parties.
Barksdale was the lone bright spot on a very bad offensive line. He was the Chargers’ 2015 Lineman of the Year. He became the team’s top priority at season’s end and ended up re-signing on four-year, $22.2 million deal with $10.5 million guaranteed. A solid right tackle who was only 28 years old at the time? Yeah, it was the right decision to bring him back, especially in a division with elite pass rushers like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Justin Houston.
Unfortunately, Barksdale struggled in 2016. He got burned a ton and was penalized just as much (tied for the most penalties on the team with seven).
There were mixed reviews on his 2017 play. After missing just one game the previous four seasons combined, he missed five games due to a nagging toe injury and looked slow off the ball. He also had the fourth-most penalties (six) on the team, including the most false starts (five). He killed drives.
On the other hand, Barksdale was one of five offensive tackles to not allow a single sack (minimum 300 pass-blocking snaps), per Pro Football Focus. I know, I didn’t see that one coming either. However, if you watch the tape, you’ll notice that he did allow pressures more often than not. That said, he’s always been known to be a better pass protector than run blocker.
And the guys behind Barksdale?
The Chargers will have 2017 sixth-round pick Sam Tevi under contract for the next three years, including a base salary of $555,000 for 2018. In Week 16, Tevi replaced injured starting left tackle Russell Okung for his his only start of the season and played well. He’s athletic but still has some learning to do. Michael Schofield, a former 29-game starter for the Denver Broncos and Prison Breaker who was claimed off waivers this past season, will be an unrestricted free agent. He filled in for an injured Barksdale and despite giving up the most pressures (in only 210 plays) among Chargers’ OTs, he looked somewhat comfortable in his five starts (15 games played). He’s only 27 years old and has the versatility to play tackle and guard, too, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chargers re-sign him to a one-year deal for depth. Swing tackle Chris Hairston missed the 2017 season due to an illness. According to OverTheCap.com, he’s in the final year of his deal, but the Chargers would save $1.52 million in cash should they release the 28-year-old.
VERDICT: The Chargers need an upgrade here. While it’s easy to just say get rid of him, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this one, especially because I don’t know what the lineup is going to look like. Will 2017 second-round pick Forrest Lamp, who missed the year after tearing his ACL in training camp, take reps at right tackle? Or will he replace Kenny Wiggins, who’s an unrestricted free agent, at right guard? If it’s the latter, Barksdale would remain the team’s best option at right tackle. Plus, the free-agent market for tackles doesn’t look too promising.
As for the money, Barksdale is signed through 2019 and is currently the 15th-highest paid right tackle in the league, making an average of $5.55 million per year. That’s not too bad for a player who gave up zero sacks this past season. Cutting Barksdale post-June 1 would save the Chargers $4.8 million in cash. They would eat $2 million in total dead money (half in 2018 and half in 2019); cutting him in 2019 would save $5.3 million in cash and cost $1 million total in dead money, per Spotrac.com.
Overall, the Chargers need to find a future replacement at the tackle position. Barksdale turned 30 years old in January and the Pro Bowler Russell Okung turns 31 in October. They’ll almost certainly use one of their 2018 draft picks on a lineman. If they think they can land a Day 1 starter in the draft, releasing Barksdale and using the money to find a better center, linebacker or even extend one of their own would make sense. But at this very moment, I think Telesco and Co. are going to keep Barksdale around for at least one more season.