Chargers Land Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler On The First Day Of Free Agency
The legal tampering period in the NFL kicked off in an insane fashion. As of writing this, there have been over 70 players who have agreed to deals with new teams, and the Los Angeles Chargers have thankfully not waited to strike as they normally do. General Manager Tom Telesco usually prefers to let other teams set the market and then come to terms with players who are closer to the value menu types of players than they are headliners. That changed today. They were able to agree to terms with two offensive linemen, which was a massive need for a team headed into a crucial season.
Corey Linsley was the best center on the market, and arguably the best interior offensive lineman in general, and the Chargers are signing him to a five-year, $62.5 million deal. Then, they also agreed to terms with guard/tackle Matt Feiler on a three-year, $21 million deal. Linsley comes over from the Green Bay Packers and Feiler from the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are two great moves for the Chargers, and I’ll get into why that is the case for each one below.
First and foremost, let’s begin with Linsley who will most likely be the most expensive signing of the year for the Chargers. If you’ve been following this team for a while, you know that the Chargers have struggled mightily to replace former stalwart Nick Hardwick. He manned the position at a very high level for Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in the early 2000s. Since that point, the Chargers have been looking for the center of the future basically every two years.
They thought they had solved that problem when Mike Pouncey came over, but then he was unable to escape the injury bug which led to Scott Quessenberry and Dan Feeney manning the position over the last two years. Quessenberry became a fan favorite since he himself grew up a Chargers fan, but neither he nor Feeney proved to be viable long-term options at the position.
Linsley on the other hand is viewed as one of the best centers in the league. As evidenced by his recent first-team All-Pro season. Linsley headlined one of the best units in the league last year and has been a rock of consistency ever since he was drafted by the Packers in 2014 out of Ohio State. He has been a force in the run game, opening holes for Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and others. He’s developed a great relationship with Aaron Rodgers and took on a lot of responsibility in setting up pass protections on each play, something that Feeney really struggled with this past season. He was also the Packers’ nominee for the 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which speaks to his character and leadership ability.
On the field, the Chargers are getting a MASSIVE upgrade. Last season Linsley allowed seven total pressures and only a single sack. On the other hand, Feeney allowed a whopping 43 total pressures and five sacks. Linsley’s numbers were the best in the league, and Feeney’s were the worst.
Linsley checked all the possible boxes for the Chargers, and perhaps most importantly his salary actually provides them with continued flexibility this season and beyond. He only carries a cap hit of $6.6 million this year, and only $11.6 million in 2022. That gives them a lot of wiggle room to sign other players, and in this specific case Feiler.
Feiler isn’t as notable of a signing but it’s the kind of signing that has the potential to dramatically outperform its value. Feiler originally signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent out of Bloomsburg College(DII) in 2014. He spent most of his time there on the practice squad, then signed on with the Steelers practice squad in 2016. He spent two seasons going back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad and then finally got his chance to be a starter in 2018.
He started 10 games at right tackle that season for the Steelers, and then all 16 in the 2019 season. The Steelers moved him over to left guard for the 2020 season, where he started 13 out of 16 games. He’s the kind of feel-good practice squad turned reliable starter story that you love about the NFL.
In 2019 he only allowed 25 total pressures, which was good enough for seventh-best among tackles who played 80% of their team’s snaps. For comparison’s sake, Sam Tevi allowed 40 total pressures that year in four fewer games. In his 13 games at left guard in 2020, he allowed 16 pressures, which was tied for twelfth-best in the league among guards who played 50% of their team’s snaps. Forrest Lamp played 100% of the Chargers snaps at left guard last year and allowed 38 pressures – which ranked 58th in the league among guards who played 50% of their team’s snaps.
There’s a case to be made that Feiler might be a better right tackle than he is a guard. But he is still a big upgrade over what the Chargers had last season, and he comes with that tackle flexibility which should be a big deal due to Bryan Bulaga’s injury history. The Chargers could play him at guard in 2021 and then kick him back out to right tackle if/when Bulaga misses any games next year. If Bulaga continues to struggle with injuries, they are able to get out of his deal in 2022 and would only take on a dead cap hit of $3.33 million. Obviously, if he plays well and stays on the field, then they can keep him. Ultimately the Feiler signing gives the Chargers options, both in the draft and in the remaining free agency period. This doesn’t pigeonhole them into signing or drafting based on need because Feiler brings that versatility to play multiple spots, which is something that they desperately needed.
Telesco absolutely had to upgrade two spots on the offensive line at a minimum through free agency and he has done that. The Chargers will still have other needs to address, re-signing Michael Davis is also another step in the right direction, but they do still have the space to add another veteran offensive lineman (tackle or guard) if they want. Either way, this was a really good start to free agency for the Chargers.