Aaron Rodgers will have a new starting center for the 2021 season.
According to Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Los Angeles Chargers are signing All-Pro veteran Corey Linsley to a five-year, $62.5 million deal that will make him the league’s new highest-paid center. The deal will be processed when the new league year begins at 3 p.m. CT on March 17.
The #Chargers are signing C Corey Linsley to a five-year, $62.5 million deal, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. He is the new highest-paid center in the league and will get $26 million over the first two years.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 15, 2021
Linsley, a 2014 fifth-round pick, has been the Green Bay Packers‘ primary center for the past four seasons and is coming off one of the best years of his career in 2020. Per Pro Football Focus, he gave up just a single sack and four total pressures in 437 pass-blocking snaps last season and, despite missing three games with an MCL injury, was named an All-Pro for the first time in his seven NFL seasons.
Linsley will now be reunited with former Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga — who signed with the Chargers on a three-year, $30 million deal last offseason — in Los Angeles, where the two will be tasked with protecting Justin Herbert as the No. 6 overall pick in 2020 prepares for his first full season as a starting quarterback.
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Linsley’s Departure Expected but Leaves Hole
Linsley’s chances of returning to the Packers had significantly narrowed over the last 24 hours after news broke that Green Bay would be extending Aaron Jones to a big-money contract, but the writing was on the wall long before they committed to any new deals.
While Linsley was a strong performer in 2020, he revealed shortly after the season ended that his agent hadn’t talked at all with the Packers about a possible contract extension. Doubt persisted toward the end of February when Linsley went on SiriusXM NFL Radio and reaffirmed that “all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year.”
The Packers have seldom signed an offensive lineman to a third contract with the exception being All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, and unique cap difficulties in 2021 made it all the more likely the trend would resume with Linsley. His original market projected he would sign for somewhere between $9-10 million per season, which the Packers could have made work with the right motivation; though, he ended up signing for even more in L.A. and would have been impossible to retain along with Jones.
Now, the Packers will need to find a new starting center for the 2021 season with a limited number of choices on their current roster. Lucas Patrick could possibly slide into the spot with Jon Runyan Jr. taking over for him at right guard. They could also turn to 2020 sixth-rounder Jake Hanson, who was a four-year starting center at Oregon but spent his rookie year between the practice squad and injured reserve.