Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each month during the offseason.
Off we go…
What do you think the offensive line will look like this season now that Rashawn Slater is healthy? (Edward via email)
Lots of great submissions but let's begin with this one.
As the offseason chugs along, there are two main developments involving this group.
The first, as Edward mentioned, is that Rashawn Slater is primed to be fully healthy this offseason after suffering a torn biceps in Week 3. The return of the All-Pro left tackle cannot be understated for how important that is for the Chargers offense.
It's not as if Jamaree Salyer, who filled in for Slater for three final three months of the season, performed poorly. He earned praise from coaches and teammates alike for his steady play, especially as a sixth-round rookie.
Salyer leads us to the second development, which is where he will play in 2023. Because he will play, something Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
A pair of recent developments have also given us clarity for where along the line that will be.
The Chargers brought back right tackle Trey Pipkins III in free agency last week and also released guard Matt Feiler.
(A quick aside before I continue on Salyer. A heavy dose of kudos to Feiler, a veteran who played the second-most offensive snaps of any player the past two seasons. He was durable, dependable and a respected voice in the locker room. And he always gave great insight to reporters when chatting at his locker).
So, what will the line look like with Pipkins back and Feiler gone?
Slater and Pipkins will be the starting tackles, while Corey Linsley will man the middle as the center. That leaves Salyer and Zion Johnson, who was solid in his own right as a rookie, as the guards.
If you ask me, that's a very solid group and one of the unquestioned strengths of the entire roster entering 2023.
The biggest storyline surrounding the Chargers of late has to do with their starting running back, who has reportedly been granted a chance to seek trade partners.
So I'm combining these two tweets and hitting all of the points together.
First, contrary to the top tweet, Austin Ekeler is more than a fantasy superstar at running back.
He's a team captain and a vital voice in the locker room who has also produced mind-boggling numbers on the field in recent seasons.
There will eb no slander of Ekeler here, either as a player and a person. His play on the field speaks for itself, and the way he carries himself off of it is exemplary.
With all of that said, it's worth highlighting that Ekeler is under contract for the 2023 season.
He isn't the first NFL player to feel like he is underpaid, especially at the running back position, and he won't be the last either.
How will it all play out?
At this point, all options are on the table.
Staley and Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco are both expected to talk to reporters next week at the 2023 Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. I will be there and will have coverage of what both say on that and every other topic.
As we go forward, perhaps there's a way the sides find a common ground that benefits both sides.
Jackson's rehab has been a popular topic this offseason, and deservedly so.
Here is what Staley said less than a month ago at the Combine:
"He's rehabbing at our facility every day, which is something that's been good to see," Staley said. "Sometimes when they're at other places, you don't know what's happening.
"It's a significant injury so I'm not sure how he's going to respond because he's never had an injury like this," Staley added. "Time will tell but he's working hard."
Staley's statement then still rings true today.
Jackson has been working his tail off at Hoag Performance Center, something you can verify by peeking at Jackson's Instagram page. I can also verify that he's been in the building and putting in the work.
But because a torn patella tendon is such a serious and rare injury, let's not speculate on a timetable just yet.
What we do know is that Jackson appears to be doing all he can to get back on the field.
If and when that does happen, it should be one of the league's best success stories of 2023.
As mentioned above, the offensive line will look a little bit different. While it remains to be seen what happens with Ekeler, yes, other big names such as Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Gerald Everett will be in the lineup.
And don't discredit progress made by others such as Josh Palmer, Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller. And any draft picks on offense will surely add some buzz on that side of the ball, too.
But the biggest difference why it won't be the same offense? Kellen Moore!
The Bolts have a new offensive coordinator, one who is going to bring completely new ideas and schemes to the offense.
I cannot wait to see what Moore has in store for this season. It shouldn't be a shock if the Chargers finish with one of the league's top offenses.
Look, I know the NFL offseason is long. And it's already been almost two months since Moore was brought on.
But don't forget the league-wide excitement there was about him landing with the Bolts. Even as we churn through the coming months, that will still be there come September.
I expect so.
The Chargers still have some money to work with, and it's highly doubtful they go through the entire offseason signing just one outside free agent in linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Remember that Telesco signed players such as Bryce Callahan, Morgan Fox and Kyle Van Noy after the draft last year.
Mid-March is when the free agency frenzy is in high gear, but there is value in adding players at a later date, too.
The Chargers are once again headlined by Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa at this group, with Chris Rumph II also expected to play a reserve role again.
If the Chargers and Van Noy decide on a reunion, that would certainly help the depth there. That's not me speculating something will or won't happen, by the way.
However, I could see an edge rusher being added at some point in the draft. Based on how the rounds go, that could be on either of the three days.
It's still a bit early to project certain positions, especially with how many unknowns there are within the draft each year.
Sure, that's a possibility.
Again, I'm not going to project the Chargers will take a certain position in the first round. Or that they have pigeon-holed themselves into doing so.
Telesco and his staff have done a good job of building the roster as it stands now, and numerous options feel like they are on the table for the 21st pick.
But we're also still over a month away from Round 1, and a lot can change between now and then.
As for linebacker and center, the starting spots are set there.
Kendricks is set to team with Kenneth Murray, Jr., at linebacker. Having previous experience covering Kendricks in Minnesota, I'll gladly vouch for him as both a player and person.
He's among the most cerebral players I've come across, and I think he'll do wonders for Murray, an athletic player who is still looking for consistency on a play-by-play basis.
Linsley, who is still among the game's best centers, is entering his 10th season in the league.
Both of those positions could be addressed on Day 3 in the draft, or perhaps with a cheap veteran free agent in the coming months.
During Tom Telesco's [year-end] press conference, he was asked about the wide receivers. He never mentioned Jalen Guyton's name once. Is it a foregone conclusion that the Chargers won't be re-signing Guyton, who is a free agent recovering from ACL surgery? Do you know if his recovery will project him to be fully available for training camp before the 2023 season? (Jeff via email)
I wouldn't read too much into that.
I've seen instances in the past where someone will mention a player and then they are gone by the time the season starts. Or they aren't mentioned at all and end up being a vital piece of the team.
As Jeff points out, Guyton is a free agent who is also coming off a torn ACL. He certainly adds a speed threat when he's on the field and Chargers fans have surely been clamoring for that this offseason.
I have no inside info on whether or not Guyton will be back with the team but will note that there's always a possibility as long as he doesn't sign with another team.
That will do it for this edition of the Mailbag.
As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmith and submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.
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