If the San Diego Chargers were filling out a depth chart on Thursday, they would have to lightly pencil in King Dunlap at left tackle and Jeromey Clary at right tackle. There’s no secret that the Chargers would like to add a blue-chip left tackle to the depth chart in bold blue ink with Dunlap and Clary penciled in on the right side.
If you watched only the playoffs last year, Bryant McKinnie of the Baltimore Ravens was one of those blue chippers. If you watched the regular season, McKinnie wasn’t worth a dime because he was barely on the field.
The Chargers are having “a couple general discussions” with the free-agent left tackle, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, but they shouldn’t even be considering him.
In fact, the Chargers should stay as far away from McKinnie as possible.
Who was keeping McKinnie on the bench? It wasn’t a younger franchise left tackle; it was actually three guards named Jah Reid, Bobbie Williams and Ramon Harewood.
To recap, McKinnie reported to training camp late, out of shape and overweight last year, and then the Ravens told him he wasn’t one of the top five offensive linemen on the team and asked him to take a pay cut or be cut.
The starting offensive line during the regular season consisted of Michael Oher at left tackle, rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle and a rotation of Reid, Williams and Harewood at left guard until Week 17. When McKinnie became the starter in the playoffs, Osemele moved to left guard and Oher to right tackle, and the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
Why wasn’t McKinnie playing before the playoffs? He was in John Harbaugh’s doghouse for practicing poorly. That sounds oddly like Jared Gaither, who was nicknamed “Jared Game Day” by those same coaches in Baltimore because he practiced poorly and played well, according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.
McKinnie is a big, tall and talented left tackle who played well in only five games at the end of a contract year. Again, that sounds oddly like Jared Gaither, who played well for five games at the end of 2011 for the Chargers, which he parlayed into a big contract. Gaither played in just four games last year and was released last month.
If there’s one notable difference about McKinnie, it’s that he’s universally liked by his teammates. Whereas Gaither’s teammates questioned the severity of his injuries and used expletives when talking about him, certain veterans in Baltimore wanted McKinnie as a starter before he was inserted into the lineup.
However, McKinnie is also 33 years old and has had several nagging injuries over the past couple of years. Even if the Chargers don’t draft a left tackle in the draft, they shouldn’t expect McKinnie to start every game at left tackle if he’s signed. McKinnie will also probably want to make at least $2.2 million, making him more than a normal gamble.
There are also scheme concerns if McKinnie were to be signed. The Chargers wouldn’t be able to do much zone blocking with McKinnie at left tackle. Tackles in the zone scheme have to be able to move and deliver backside cut blocks. Although McKinnie is a good athlete for his size, he still weighs in at more than 350 pounds on a good day. A man of McKinnie's size can only move so well.
All options should be considered to find a left tackle capable of protecting Philip Rivers, but Chargers fans should hope that talks with McKinnie don’t go any further.
In the ideal world, the Chargers wouldn’t have to consider McKinnie because they would be able to land a left tackle in the draft. In reality, the fact that the Chargers are putting out feelers suggests that they doubt they will be able to draft a left tackle.