By now, the news has spread through the San Diego Chargers’ news wire that free agent offensive tackle Joe Barksdale has been signed by the Bolts. The offensive line has been an area that needs improvement this offseason. They have re-signed left tackle King Dunlap and reserve center Trevor Robinson. Offensive guard Orlando Franklin was added via free agency, as was Chris Hairston, former Buffalo Bill. The team also brought in guard Michael Huey for depth or as a camp body.
Barksdale, 26, was a third-round pick in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders. The St. Louis Rams claimed him off waivers prior to the 2012 season. Barksdale has played the last 29 consecutive games for the Rams at right tackle. Now at the end of his rookie contract, the Rams drafted Wisconsin offensive tackle Rob Havenstein, instead of re-signing Barksdale as an unrestricted free agent.
Until the Rams’ offensive line was beset by injuries midway through the season, particularly to Jake Long and Davin Joseph, Barksdale ranked as a top-15 tackle according to Pro Football Focus. As the injuries and losses mounted during the second half of the season, his ranking also plummeted. The Chargers signed the 6’5″, 325 lb. bruiser to a one-year deal.
With Barksdale in the fold, the projected starting offensive line looks to be King Dunlap at left tackle, Orlando Franklin at left guard, Chris Watt at center, Barksdale at right tackle with D.J. Fluker moving to right guard. Guard Johnnie Troutman would be the odd man out of the starting lineup.
Looking at Troutman’s body of work, his career to date has been marred by injuries and ineffective play. He was the Chargers fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Troutman missed his entire rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered two weeks before the draft. In 2013, he started nine games and missed seven as a result of injury, or ineffectiveness. Coach McCoy benched Troutman halfway through the season after picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The injured reserved list was where Troutman’s season would end in 2014 due to a knee injury. Though he played 15 games, his run and pass blocking were equally abysmal and contributing factors to the overall lack of offensive production that caused the Chargers to miss the postseason by one game.
All the offensive line woes can’t be blamed on Troutman, but it is easy to see why he will be on the hot seat this season. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and he’s not shown he’s worthy of a starting position, much less a new contract. Younger, hungrier and more talented lineman are coming in every season and Troutman has yet to prove himself.
Troutman will be in a battle just to make the roster, as he will have to show he belongs with Hairston, Huey and the host of UDFA linemen the Chargers brought in to create quality depth at all positions on the line. The Chargers lose nothing by keeping Troutman, but they can gain a more capable, reliable player with whom they already have and who will become available when final roster cuts occur.
In the end, I believe Johnnie Troutman will not play another down in a regular season game for the Chargers. Like letting Ryan Mathews walk, it’s addition by subtraction. One less injury-prone player on the roster makes the team better. Best of luck to Troutman elsewhere, but his time is up.
What do you think? Does Troutman deserve one more year to prove himself?
The Greg One