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Chargers GM Tom Telesco won’t lay it on line as far as restocking for 2021

 Chargers general manager Tom Telesco speaks during a press conference.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco speaks during a press conference at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

The Chargers have nine selections in the upcoming NFL draft, and the prevailing joke is they could pick an offensive lineman with each one.

Or maybe they could sign a few in free agency and trade for a few others, as well.

The Chargers have deficiencies up front, though general manager Tom Telesco cautioned about focusing too much on one area when assessing his priorities of this offseason.

“Let’s not forget, we need to add talent amongst the whole football team,” he said. “We’re trying to build a balanced football team. … I don’t know if we’re, you know, just a better offensive line away from winning a championship.”

Still, among the things Telesco said the Chargers must do better in 2021 is run with more efficiency. He also said that they need to improve their offense in the red zone and in goal-to-go situations.

All of which speaks to an offensive line that dealt with injuries and inconsistency last season.

The Chargers want to keep free agent tight end Hunter Henry, and he’s interested in staying. But the team would take a significant financial hit.

In their first seasons with the team, veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Trai Turner both missed significant time.

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Center Dan Feeney, left guard Forrest Lamp and left tackle Sam Tevi were healthy enough to remain starters throughout the season but each struggled at times. All three are pending unrestricted free agents.

The Chargers have the No. 13 pick in the draft and four selections in the first 100. Several projections have them taking an offensive lineman in the opening round, with Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw among the names frequently mentioned.

But Telesco repeatedly noted that he’d “keep all options open” when addressing the line and the Chargers’ other needs, which most notably include edge rusher and cornerback.

The team has an estimated $23.3 million in effective salary cap space — according to overthecap.com — ranking 10th league-wide.

So the Chargers are in better financial shape than most, though Telesco added, “It’s not like we have so much cap space that we can be overly aggressive in free agency.”

With the pandemic-impacted cap decreasing by nearly $20 million, the Chargers could benefit from an expected influx of offensive line free agents as teams continue to make cuts over the next several days. Among those who started in 2020, center Nick Martin recently was released by Houston, for example.

Since quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton has left the Chargers after a successful season with Justin Herbert, Shane Day has been given the task of developing the young signal-caller.

The Chargers could save $11.5 million against the cap by cutting Turner, who is entering the final season of a four-year, $45-million extension he signed with Carolina.

Other offensive line starters could join the open market at least in part because of the salary-cap pinch. Green Bay center Corey Linsley last week suggested he wouldn’t be returning to the Packers.

Still others — including Baltimore tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and Las Vegas tackle Trent Brown — could be traded this offseason.

“I’m encouraged where we are with the core players that we have, with the coaching staff that’s here,” Telesco said. “But we’ve got some work to do.”


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