Jim Harbaugh has "toured" the media outlets since being introduced last Thursday as the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Harbaugh has stressed that his priority is to build the best staff possible, and many of his staffers' hires might become official in the coming hours, as is the case of former 49ers and Ravens offensive coordinator, Greg Roman. Harbaugh refers to Justin Herbert as the NFL's "crown jewel", and has also praised high-end players such as Derwin James, Keenan Allen and Rashawn Slater. Likewise, he expects a physical team, with "good-old-fashioned hard work", and both strong defensive and offensive lines.
The Los Angeles Chargers head coach stated in his introductory press conference that offensive linemen "don't rely on any other position to be good, but every other position relies on them... to be successful". He said something very similar on the fan-favorite Pat McAfee Show, in that "every position group relies on the offensive line."
Harbaugh thinks that–regardless of who the running backs, wide receivers or tight ends are–a successful offense is the product of efficient run blocking and sufficient time to throw. Replacing All-Pro center Corey Linsley is an immediate need, but the Chargers could also strengthen the rest of the o-line.
Chargers could use the fifth overall pick to bolster the offensive line
ESPN's Mel Kiper, a draft expert and known for his "mock drafts", has commented on Jim Harbaugh's rationale on the offensive line, and how that might affect the Los Angeles Chargers' plan for the 5th overall pick. Despite Kiper having the Chargers select Brock Bowers (TE, Georgia) in his first mock draft, he and First Draft's co-host Field Yates agreed that Harbaugh's approach to the o-line should be strong enough to pass on Bowers or Malik Nabers (WR, LSU).
Mel Kiper suggested the Chargers might get Joe Alt (OT, Notre Dame) with their first round pick, and will most likely edit his next mock draft. Although Joe Alt played left tackle with the Fighting Irish–and Rashawn Slater owns that position– they praised his adaptability to move to the right side, as he even began his collegiate career as a tight end. While they evaluated Trey Pipkins as a good player, both believe Alt would be an upgrade to protect Justin Herbert and give him sufficient time to create plays.
Though Alt is the best OT prospect, this is one of the best offensive line classes recently, as Kiper has 7 other offensive tackles and a guard among his top 25 prospects in his traditional Big Board. Olumuyiwa Fashanu (OT, Penn State) and Tyler Guyton (OT, Oklahoma) are also compelling candidates.
Chargers could sign a right tackle in free agency
The Chargers could bolster the right tackle position through free agency. Mike Onwenu (Patriots) and Mekhi Becton (Jets) are among the best right tackles in the 2024 free agency, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Onwenu is the better option since Becton's inability to stay healthy is a red flag after the last two injury-riddled years. According to Sports Illustrated's Geoff Magliocchetti, Onwenu is both great in the running game and in preventing pressure, where he was one of the NFL's best twenty tackles.
Despite his exceptional talent – and that he would not return to the Patriots – it is very unlikely the Chargers will pursue Onwenu due to the team's salary-cap situation and Onwenu's likely asking price.
That's why Jermaine Eluemunor (Raiders) becomes an appealing free-agency alternative. Eluemunor had an outstanding 4.4% pressure rate playing at right tackle in 2023, and he earned an admirable 71.5 grade as a run blocker, according to PFF. Moreover, the 30-year-old player has never signed for more than $3 million a year, so his contract would not strain the Chargers' salary cap.
Chargers may replace center Corey Linsley in free agency
The Chargers will replace All-Pro center Corey Linsley in 2024, who announced his retirement after a heart-related injury, and current backups Will Clapp and Brenden Jaimes are clearly not competent to start.
Apart from looking into the mid-later rounds of the NFL Draft, the Bolts could also be looking for a center in free agency. Though Connor Williams (Dolphins) is the highest-rated 2024 free agent center according to PFF, he suffered an ACL injury that will prevent him for coming back until mid-2024.
The next highest-rated center also played for Las Vegas (who produced a top-10 offensive line last year). Center Andre James had his best QB protection and run-blocking season in 2023. Additionally, Raiders Wire's Marcus Mosher predicts that James would cost around $8 million next year, a good deal for the Chargers compared to Linsley's $12.5 million annual salary.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh believes in starting from the inside out, and it would not be surprising if they selected Notre Dame's Joe Alt over eye-catching gems Bowers or Nabers. This decision would make sense because of Harbaugh's "good old-fashioned hard work" philosophy, which he implements everywhere he goes.