The Chargers gave out massive contracts to offensive linemen in free agency, only terminate them early. Can Russell Okung be the first to see his through?
Russell Okung has remained a consistent player at left tackle over the past two seasons with the Chargers, and is entering his third year projected once again to be a veteran leader along the offensive line. Tom Telesco signed him to a large deal in 2017, repeating a pattern of bringing in bigger-name talent in free agency to build his starting five. One trend Okung would like to avoid: Having those big deals for offensive linemen terminated early.
The large contracts given to free agent offensive linemen under Telesco were:
- LT King Dunlap: Four years, $28 million
- OG Orlando Franklin: Five years, $36.5 million
- RT Joe Barksdale: Four years, $22.2 million
Dunlap was one of Telesco’s earliest free agent gem signings, signing a small deal with the team in 2013 and becoming a solid left tackle. His extension was warranted and deserved, and even team-friendly compared to deals for other left tackles. If not for injuries forcing him into an early retirement, Dunlap may have seen this deal all the way through.
Franklin, outside of Derek Cox, is Telesco’s biggest free agent acquisition blunder with the Chargers. The former Broncos tackle was expected to shore up the guard spot for the Chargers and rookie running back Melvin Gordon, but was pitiful in his play and cut just two years into his deal.
Barksdale was on the team last season, but was cut in the middle of the year after being replaced as a starter by Sam Tevi. The reasons for his early departure are attributed to both health and personal reasons.
The Chargers are now employing Russell Okung for his third season with the team, who has already completed half of the four-year, $53 million contract signed in 2017. Pro Football Focus’ 11th-ranked tackle from 2018 is currently dealing with an undisclosed injury, but it currently does not appear to be serious enough to be considered season-ending, if he were to miss games at all.
The Chargers drafted Trey Pipkins in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft to potentially replace Okung in the future, but it does not feel like the team is prepared to make that move within the next two years. If Okung can hold strong and repeat a performance similar to either of his last two seasons, the Chargers will have no reason to release him early, and the veteran tackle will become the first free agent lineman signed to a large contract by Telesco to finish out his deal.