The Chargers got devastating news that starting center Corey Linsley will be out for a good portion of the season, early this week. He was placed on the Non-Football Injury list, with a “non-emergent heart-related issue.” Before getting into the football side of things, prayers out to Linsley and his family.
Potential Replacements For Corey Linsley
The Chargers can go multiple routes to replace their former All-Pro center. It is very unlikely that the Chargers can find someone who can produce like Linsley, but finding a starting caliber center during the season would go a long way for this Chargers offense. Whether it’s external options or in-house options, the Chargers need a plan for at least the new four games of this year, and possibly the future.
In House Options
Against the Raiders, the Chargers opted to start Will Clapp. Clapp played 333 snaps for the Chargers last season, in relief of Corey Linsley. Clapp wasn’t overly impressive, but he got the job done for the time being. During this stint, he earned a 54.3 Overall PFF grade, with a 73.4 pass-blocking grade, and a 42.3 run-blocking grade. He gave up eight pressures, four hits, and four hurries. Now with Clapp likely to start at least three more games, and possibly the rest of the year, he needs to improve for the Chargers offense to click on all cylinders.
The current backup to Clapp is Chargers former fifth-round selection, Brenden Jaimes. Jaimes was a prospect who was highly versatile and eventually found his way to center with the Chargers. Last year, he played sparingly at all three interior positions. At guard, Jaimes played three snaps at left guard, and eight on the right, during these snaps, he gave up three pressures, two hits, and one hurry. It did not get any better when Jaimes was thrust into the Center.
Jaimes played seven snaps at center in week six against the Broncos last year and had two pressures, two hurries, and a declined penalty. Jaimes also had a whopping zero pass block grade for the game. The Chargers need to look for external options to replace Corey Linsley as if Clapp goes down, they’re down to someone who recorded a zero pass block grade during his time at center.
Free Agent Options
Ben Jones is the obvious veteran free-agent option. Coming off a Pro Bowl season, many would think he would be on a team by now. But as of right now, Jones is a free agent. The 34-year-old center would be the perfect 1-year replacement for Corey Linsley, offering an outstanding run-blocking center, that can also protect well.
Jones was a former fourth-round selection out of Georgia in 2012, and played in both Houston and Tennessee for his career, registering over a thousand snaps at left guard, over 800 at right guard, and most importantly over 8000 at center. The former Titan could join a contender in the Chargers and give a boost to this run game. He would also give a veteran presence that the team will lose, with the loss of the stalwart center, Corey Linsley.
Another veteran center that used to play for the Texans is also on the market. Nick Martin would be a good pickup, and give the Chargers another option for the interior offensive line. Martin has played strictly center during his career, last starting for the Washington Commanders in 2022 for two games. Although, Martin is not what he used to be, which was a tree stump of a blocking, stonewalling any pass rusher coming to him.
Last year, Martin gave up four pressures and a hit during his stint with the Commanders, playing in three games for a total of 156 snaps. That doesn’t sound that bad considering the Chargers are looking down the barrel of Will Clapp and Brenden Jaimes who gave up two pressures on seven snaps, but it should be known that Martin recorded a very low 42.6 PFF grade last season, and hasn’t been the same since he left Houston.
Matt Skura has gone under the radar, as he gives great versatility playing significant snaps at all interior positions, and easily gives a team a solid enough lineman, with plenty of experience and starts under his belt.
Skura last played for the Rams in 2022 and was a contributor at left guard. Skura would give the Chargers an immediate upgrade at center, even if it was marginal. He recorded a good 68.1 pass blocking grade last season, and a 48.3 PFF grade overall.
The first player the Chargers should look to replace Corey Linsley is Brian Allen. Allen has connections with Brandon Staley from his time with the Rams. Drafted in the fourth round in 2018 and has started in 32 games. Allen lost his job to Coleman Shelton but is still a very solid player and deserves a place to start. Why not move down the street to the Chargers?
Allen has logged over 2000 snaps at center, playing very well in the Sean McVay offense. During his tenure as a majority starter, Allen recorded PFF grades of 58.6, 74.8, and 63.8. Very solid numbers, and would be a tremendous upgrade over Clapp, as well as giving the Chargers a potential center of the future. Trading for Allen almost makes too much sense.
Nick Harris is a young developing center who has been waiting for his turn in Cleveland. That time has yet to come, so the 25-year-old center should be looking for an opportunity somewhere, and why not in the city of Los Angeles? The former fifth-round selection in 2020, has played sparingly during his tenure for the Browns, playing both at right guard and center.
At center, Harris recorded an outstanding run block grade average of 76.8, and an average pass blocking grade of 63.0. The young center has shown some promise, in his limited time on the field. Trading for Harris would be a bit riskier but would give the Chargers a potential long-term center of the future if Corey Linsley’s condition ends up being long-term.
If any Bears fans are reading this, look away. Sam Mustipher has gotten a lot of criticism during his time in Chicago, and at times it was with good reason. But the Chargers are in desperate need of a center, and why not pick someone up for a very low value who has nearly 3,000 snaps at center? Mustipher is only 27 and has shown promise in his short stint with the Ravens.
This year with the Ravens Mustipher looks like a brand new player, grading out extremely well in his snaps at center, starting in place of the currently injured Tyler Linderbaum. Thus far, the former Bear has recorded a 69.6 overall grade, with a 77.2 pass-blocking grade.
The Chargers are in a tough spot currently, as staying with in-house options is safer, but won’t push the needle in the direction it needs to go. If they do want to push that needle, the options are limited on the open market, but there is one standout center just waiting to be picked up. That is Ben Jones. Jones would give the Chargers the best chance out of all options, but would the Chargers be willing to pay him?
If the Chargers would rather spend capital and trade for a player who could both fill in this year and possibly be a long-term option, there are a few decent options, the best being Brian Allen. Brian Allen would be an easy move that makes too much sense. But would the Chargers be willing to send capital to their cross-town rivals?
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