We’ll be breaking down all the major and minor moves for NFL Free Agency with grades and analysis. You can find the comprehensive list of moves and grades here.
Few positional groups routinely need more yearly upgrades than the Chargers’ offensive line. Even times when it looks like the Chargers get a win along the line, such as last year’s trade for Trai Turner, it doesn’t work out. The signing of Corey Linsley is a test for how cursed the Chargers truly are.
Linsley has become one of the league’s best all-around centers as a soon-to-be 30-year-old. In 2020, Linsley ranked fifth among centers in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate and first by Run Block Win Rate. He was also first in Pass Block Win Rate in 2019. That would be a massive upgrade over Dan Feeny, who was 31st in Pass Block Win Rate and the worst center by Run Block Win Rate last season.
As a team, the Chargers were 31st in pass Block Win Rate, one of two teams under 50% along with the New York Giants, and 32nd in Run Block Win Rate.
The Chargers paid up to grab Linsley with a $12.5 million average that beat out Ryan Kelly’s $12.4 million mark and the $26 million over the first two years edges Kelly’s $23.5 million fully guaranteed, according to Over The Cap.
Like Joe Thuney’s signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, Linsley’s addition doesn’t immediately fix the entire line, but he comes as a solid building block to start.
This also gives the Chargers an experienced center to help Justin Herbert at the line of scrimmage. Herbert was among the league’s best quarterbacks under pressure last season (-0.09 EPA per attempt, which ranked third) but closer to average from a clean pocket (15th by EPA per attempt). Putting Linsley in the middle of the offensive line can help Herbert with protections and pre-snap identifiers as well as keep the pocket cleaner on a more consistent basis.