Assessing Trey Pipkins’ Future With The Los Angeles Chargers & 2 Draftable Alternatives At Right Tackle

The Chargers can and should do better than Trey Pipkins for 2024.

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2023 wasn’t exactly Trey Pipkins’ year on the Los Angeles Chargers. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), his pass-blocking grade went up a smidge (67.3 from 65.4 in 2022), and along with that came six more sacks allowed, 12 more quarterback hurries, and 17 more quarterback pressures than the previous season. His run-blocking grade actually went down 0.2 and was still solidly in the 50s.

Though the numbers look slightly better for Pipkins in true pass sets, they’re not that much better. Pipkins was far and away the better option when he was chosen over Storm Norton in 2022 for the position, but he’s had more valleys than peaks. Unfortunately, Pipkins was extended last year and still has two years on his contract. 

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According to Spotrac, the Los Angeles Chargers get more cap savings by cutting him post-June 1st next year ($6.75 million) as opposed to this year ($1.75 million) and he comes with a cap hit of $8.75 million, which increases next year ($9.25 million). Cutting him would not be a big money saver, but trading him would be. The Chargers would still owe him $2.5 million this year and next, if they traded him post-June 1st but would not be on the hook for his $6.25 million 2024 salary. 

So depending on who the Chargers draft, which seems to be the best way to fill the position given their lack of cap space, the Chargers could manage to move on from Pipkins. 

Possible Draft Replacements For The Los Angeles Chargers?

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Taliese Fuaga

Taliese Fuaga of Oregon State is a possibility to target. He’s fast and able to pivot well on the edge. Despite playing a few fewer pass-blocking snaps in 2023, his pass-blocking grade went up four points (80%) and while playing 95 fewer run-blocking snaps, his run-blocking grade jumped from 79.1% in 2022 to 90.9% in 2023. He’s played right tackle throughout his entire time at Oregon State, so is very familiar with the position.

NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein says in his draft profile, “The pass protection technique is outstanding, and he possesses the athleticism to mirror and match edge-to-edge rush movements. Fuaga’s hand work is exceptional in pass pro and will need to remain so, because of his lack of desired range for recovering when beaten. A team could slide him to guard to improve its interior protection, but he’s best-suited at right tackle, where he should become a good starter.” Though he may take some time to develop, as Zierlein has him graded as a “good starter within two years,” he’s definitely a good run-blocking option, which is crucial for what the Chargers want to do this year.

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JC Latham

JC Latham of Alabama played for the last two years of his college career at right tackle. His run-blocking improved in 2023 (79.6%) while playing more running-blocking snaps than in 2022. Though he was responsible for more sacks last year, his pass-blocking grade was still solidly in the 80s. When he plays, he makes it really hard for anyone to break in off the edge until it’s too late, and the ball is already going up the field.

Zierlein says in Latham’s profile, “Bulldozer in human form with the upper- and lower-body power to forcibly evacuate run lanes and instantly upgrade a team’s ground attack. Latham’s body type is girthy, he has elite drive-blocking talent”, and he’s graded as a “Year 1 Starter.”

The Verdict 

Ultimately, Pipkins may be kept because of his contract but the trade route post-draft is an option, as there are so many teams in need of an offensive lineman, and at that point, the Los Angeles Chargers may have a better idea of their vision for his replacement.

Another solution would be that the Chargers draft someone and switch him and Pipkins in and out throughout 2024, but I would much rather they have a new player in to gel with this offensive line. Pipkins is fine but not great and with all the Chargers want to accomplish this year, they need great more than ever.

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