The Los Angeles Chargers have begun the process of revamping their offensive line. On Wednesday, they tentatively agreed to trade left tackle Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for guard Trai Turner, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal cannot become official until the start of the new league year on March 18.
Though Okung remains a quality starter, the Chargers had several reasons to trade away the 31-year-old offensive tackle. Prior to the trade agreement, Okung had grown skeptical of his future in Los Angeles, an early sign that the veteran would play for another franchise in 2020. Those concerns came on the heels of a season in which Okung appeared in only six games due to a combination of a pulmonary embolism diagnosed last offseason and a subsequent groin injury.
Okung's contract also played a role. He enters the final year of his deal and would have counted more than $16 million against the Chargers' salary cap. Once the trade becomes official, the team will clear nearly $13.2 million in cap space. Los Angeles can reallocate those resources toward free agency as well as an expected contract extension for Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa.
Additionally, Okung's departure also clears the way for some of the Chargers' younger offensive linemen. Trey Pipkins, a third-round draft pick in 2019, started three games as a rookie and appeared 10 others. Though he remains raw and had lapses in pass protection, head coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco both praised his progress and potential as a future starter. Trent Scott, who started nine games last season, could also factor into the discussion.
As for the player returning in the trade, Turner earned Pro Bowl honors in each of the past five seasons and doesn't turn 27 until June. He has appeared in no fewer than 13 games in a season since entering the league in 2014 and, though primarily a guard, has played some right tackle in the past.
Turner's contract also won't impose any overburdensome stress on the Chargers' salary cap. His deal carries a base salary of just $8.5 million post-trade in 2020 and $11 million the following year. His arrival also covers the team in the event that impending free agent Michael Schofield departs this offseason.
The Chargers likely have not finished retooling their offensive line this offseason. They hold the No. 6 overall pick and could invest that selection into one of the draft's top linemen. A recent mock draft from NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah projects Louisville's Mekhi Becton to Los Angeles in the first round.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH