Not only did the Chargers manage to nab one of the top offensive linemen in free agency, but they did so while delivering a blow to their division rivals. Guard/tackle Orlando Franklin will trade in his Denver orange for San Diego powder blue, having agreed to a five-year deal worth $36.5 million and $20 million guaranteed, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.
The per-year value on that contract places Franklin either in the top five for guards, based on average annual salary, or makes him the new standard at right tackle. Franklin played both spots for the Broncos during his four-year stay—he was a right tackle from 2011-13, then slid to left guard and started 16 games last season.
San Diego no doubt paid attention to those options when courting Franklin. He could step in immediately at left guard, a spot held in 2014 by Chad Rinehart (31 QB hurries allowed, a minus-22.7 score on Pro Football Focus). Or Franklin could take over at right tackle, pushing 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker inside to guard. Fluker has started 31 of a possible 32 regular-season games since arriving in San Diego, but he was charged with a team-high 36 hurries and seven sacks last season playing on the outside.
[daily_cut.nfl]"That's the plan right now," GM Tom Telesco said last month of potentially leaving Fluker at right tackle. "We think he has the ability to probably play a couple different spots. But right now, the plan is to leave him out there."
Regardless of where Franklin starts, his presence will bolster an emerging San Diego line. With Franklin, Fluker, LT King Dunlap and center Chris Watt, the Chargers are now set—and strong, provided Watt progresses in his second season—at four of the five spots up front.
Any knock on this deal would center on the money spent, but San Diego had ample cap room (approximately $27.8 million) and kept its offer to Franklin within reason compared to others at his position. The fact that Franklin could line up comfortably at either guard or tackle adds to his value.
The Chargers had to make their O-line a priority this offseason. Their front finished middle of the road in sacks allowed last season, at 37, but QB Philip Rivers found himself under a barrage of pressure at times—an issue that got worse as the schedule progressed.
Franklin, 27, should just now be stepping into his prime, meaning that he may even outplay his contract when all is said and done.