Former Chargers center Nick Hardwick is a little biased about the importance of the position.
“The tip of the spear,” the Chargers radio analyst said proudly. “You have a chance to dent the defense right in the heart.”
Hardwick was enthusiastic when he talked about centers Monday, and with good reason — the Chargers had agreed to a deal with one of the best in the NFL.
Mike Pouncey, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, signed a two-year contract that could be worth up to $15 million.
Pouncey played in three Pro Bowls for the Dolphins after being their first-round pick in the 2011 draft. He started all 93 games he appeared in for Miami, making all 16 starts last season.
The team released Pouncey in a cost-saving measure after he wouldn’t agree to restructure his contract.
Hardwick said that Pouncey plays the position with quick feet and athleticism, traits that should help the Chargers’ ground attack.
“Above all, I like his tenacity on the football field,” Hardwick said of Pouncey. “He starts fights, he’s there to protect his teammates. I think he can bring a real intense culture to that locker room.”
The Chargers averaged only 3.8 yards a carry last season, tied for fourth worst in the NFL. The addition of Pouncey, along with blocking tight end Virgil Green earlier in free agency, should help fix that.
But Pouncey comes with controversy in his past.
Along with teammates Richie Incognito and John Jerry, he was named in a 2014 investigation into bullying inside the Dolphins locker room. The victim of the bullying, Jonathan Martin, recently made threatening posts on Instagram, naming Incognito and Pouncey as well as Martin’s high school alma mater, Harvard-Westlake. Martin was charged on March 13 with four counts of making criminal threats and one count of carrying a loaded firearm in public.
Since then, though, Pouncey’s business has been almost entirely on the field, where he became one of the top centers in the NFL. His identical twin, Maurkice, plays center for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
By signing Pouncey, the Chargers repeated one of their biggest splashes of last season, when they bolstered the offensive line in free agency with the signing of left tackle Russell Okung. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Chargers.
Pouncey will be part of a projected line that includes Okung at left tackle, Dan Feeney at left guard, Forrest Lamp at right guard and Joe Barksdale at right tackle.
The team also re-signed Michael Schofield to add depth to the offensive line. Last year’s starting center, former undrafted rookie Spencer Pulley, can add depth at center and guard.
The Chargers biggest remaining needs are at linebacker and free safety, where Tre Boston started last season. He is an unrestricted free agent who remains unsigned.
9:09 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.
The article was originally published at 6:05 p.m.