Chargers ink veteran OT Max Starks to 1-year deal
The nine-year veteran spent his entire NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting 96 of 123 regular season games, and eight of 10 postseason contests for the team. The 31-year-old Starks has experience at both tackle positions, and won two Super Bowls with the Steelers, starting at right tackle against the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 and then at left against the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
Starks started all 16 games at left tackle for the Steelers in the 2012 season despite suffering an ACL injury to his right knee during the team’s playoffs run the previous season. But the Steelers were looking to get more athletic at the position in the 2013 season and thus opted not to re-sign Starks in favor of younger tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers’ former second-round pick (2011 draft) Marcus Gilbert took opened the OTAs on Tuesday at left tackle.
However, Starks provides drastic improvement on the Chargers’ offensive line and a veteran presence up front, especially at left tackle position where the team suffered bouts of ineffectiveness and was plagued by injuries. Last season, Kevin Haslem and Jared Gaither were in rotation at the Chargers’ left tackle spot. But neither had much success last season as Gaither also battled back and groin injuries. The Chargers released Haslem today to create roster room for Starks.
The Chargers looked to address their offensive tackle needs during the NFL draft this year. But the Chargers lost the top three tackle options in the 2013 NFL draft after they were picked within the first four pick. However, the Chargers were able to shore up at right tackle by selecting former Alabama product D.J. Fulker in the first-round (11th overall) of the 2013 draft. The Chargers also tied their luck in free agency but the options at left tackle were fairly limited.
Although offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie also visited the Chargers during that time frame, he ended up re-signing with the Baltimore Ravens this offseason. Since then, the Chargers had diverted their focus to Starks, who visited the Chargers as well as the Arizona Cardinals earlier this month.
Starks could push previously projected starter King Dunlap for the right tackle job during training camp.
The Chargers offensive line is much improved around the edges now with D.J. Flucker expected to man the right side and Starks to the left. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound Starks will now provide relief for quarterback Philip Rivers by protecting his blind side in 2013, after severing in a similar capacity for Ben Roethlisberger over the past five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.