NFL Free Agents and Potential Cap Casualties: Offensive Linemen
2013's free agent Offensive Linemen and potential cap casualties
2/11/13 in NFL
I've already covered all the offensive skill position players that have a good shot at hitting the open market, but let's not forget about the guys in the trenches. One of these offensive linemen could be what propels your team to the next level:
For a look at the free agent quarterbacks of 2013, click here.
For running backs, click here.
For wide receivers/tight ends, click here.
For defensive linemen, click here.
We'll start with the tackles. Ryan Clady is a beast, playing in three Pro Bowls in five career seasons. Injury concerns have the Broncos reluctant to give him a long-term contract, so we'll see if they slap him with the franchise tag.
Originally considered a bust, Andre Smith has turned into one of the league's premier run-blocking tackles. The Bengals have plenty of cap space, and aren't expected to let Smith hit the open market, whether it be a result of a long-term deal or the franchise tag.
With the first overall pick in the draft, the Chiefs could select top offensive prospect Luke Joeckel (a left tackle), making Branden Albert expendable. Albert has called the idea of moving from tackle to guard "ludicrous," so if the Chiefs decide to go the Joeckel route, Albert would likely end up being the top tackle on the market in March.
Jake Long might be the biggest name among free agent offensive linemen, but his play has really dropped off over the past two seasons. He's looking to get a contract in the range of $10 million, but the Dolphins are reportedly willing to pay only $6-7 million. He seems likely to hit the open market, where someone will likely take a chance on Long regaining his former dominance. The Raiders, whose offensive line coach is Tony Sporano (former head coach of the Dolphins), could be a potential landing spot.
The Lions may have trouble bringing back Gosder Cherilus due to limited cap space. In addition, they have starting left tackle Jeff Backus under contract for next season, and a former first-round pick in Riley Reiff ready for a chance to start. Cherilus was one of the top pass blockers in the league in 2012.
If the Patriots can bring back Sebastian Vollmer for 2013, they'll have the same five starters on the offensive line as they did in 2012. Continuity is huge for an offensive line unit, and Vollmer is a good player, which is why the Patriots are expected to prioritize the tackle and not let him walk. The only factor that may hold up a new deal is Vollmer's history of back issues.
Will Beatty had a very strong season in 2012, but is considered the Giants' top priority in free agency... The Vikings are not expected to let Phil Loadholt hit the open market, and Adrian Peterson is also urging management to get a deal done with the tackle.Now we'll look at the guards. Andy Levitre leads this group, and while a return to Buffalo is possible, Levitre has every intention of testing the market and taking the best offer. The Lions have been mentioned as a possible destination.
Louis Vasquez was the Chargers' best offensive lineman in 2012, and will reportedly be seeking a deal in the range of $6 million. He and the Chargers are not believed to be engaged in contract negotiations yet, and scouts are believed to be very high on the 25 year old, so it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him hit the open market in March.
Due to the mess of a salary cap situation that Mike Tannenbaum left behind, the Jets are unlikely to be able to afford to bring back Brandon Moore. Though he is 32 years old, he could be an option for a team that is ready to contend for a Super Bowl next season... Fellow Jets guard Matt Slauson could also hit the market, though he's more likely to stay in New York due to a lower price tag.
Here are a few of the free agent centers. The Falcons would like to have Todd McClure back in 2013, and as a player turning 36 in the next few days, a return to the Super Bowl contending team in Atlanta makes sense.
The Broncos will be in a similar situation with veteran center Dan Koppen, who was signed midseason in 2012 and quickly became the starter in Denver.
There's not much reason for the Jaguars to bring back 35 year old Brad Meester, as the team is clearly in rebuilding mode. Meester has stated that he does not want to retire, but there's a chance that he doesn't get any contract offers. This class of free agent centers is very thin.
Here are some potential cap casualties on the offensive line:
By the end of the 2012 season, Doug Free was rotating with Jermey Parnell at right tackle. Due $7 million in 2013, Free will be very overpaid if he is not released.
The Steelers are making a transition to a younger offensive line, and could be adopting a zone-blocking scheme. Willie Colon is a power-blocking lineman with a spotty injury history who will be 30 years old in April, so the Steelers very well may want his $5.5 million off their payroll.
Jared Gaither's Charger teammates are apparently fed up with the injury-prone tackle, who was accused of milking injuries in 2012. One Charger was quoted saying, "I can't even look him in the eye," while another said, "F---ing Gaither. He f---ing cost us big time." Head coach Norv Turner (who has since been fired) also said, "We gave Jared every opportunity to be part of this team, and it just hasn't worked out." Reliable sources expect the Chargers to absorb a $6 million cap hit to dump the problematic locker room presence.