Free Agent Market For Offensive Tackles

Our list of 2015 free agents provides a comprehensive position-by-position breakdown of which players are eligible to hit the open market this year. However, that list of names doesn’t include much context or additional information about those players. So, with March’s free agent period fast approaching, we’ll be taking a closer look this month at the free agent market for each position. Today, we’ll turn our attention to offensive tackles. Let’s dive in….

Top unrestricted FAs:

A year ago, the free agent class of offensive tackles included a handful of solid left tackles, including Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, and Jared Veldheer, whose new deals all exceeded $35MM in total value. This time around, it would be a surprise if any tackles signed for that much, but it’s not out of the question.

Roos and Dunlap have shown they’re capable of protecting a quarterback’s blind side, and while Roos may very well end up retiring, Dunlap should do well in free agency, assuming he makes it there. Still, it may be Bulaga, a right tackle, who lands the biggest payday of this year’s class. The Packers lineman, who was recently profiled by our Rory Parks, turns just 26 next month, and is coming off a very strong year. While teams may be reluctant to try him on the left side, his new deal should rival the top contracts signed by right tackles.

Newton, Free, Barksdale, and Harris all played right tackle in 2014 as well, and their performances ranged from solid to above-average. Like Bulaga, they may not be trusted to protect a signal-caller’s blind side, but teams looking for stability on the right side should be interested. As for Bell, he’s the trickiest case among this group — he has been a starter for a playoff team in Carolina in each of the last two seasons, but his Pro Football Focus grades weren’t great on the right side and were even worse on the left in 2014 (subscription required). He should find a starting job, but perhaps for a more modest salary than some others on this list.

Other unrestricted options:

If a club targeting an offensive tackle in free agency misses out on a player in our first tier, it may make sense to wait for the draft rather than relying on a player from this group to be a starter. By my count, Oher was the only player here to see more than 600 offensive snaps in 2014, and he was quickly cut by the Titans, who signed him less than a year ago.

Still, there’s a little potential here. Parnell hasn’t seen the field much, acting as a reserve on the NFL’s best offensive line in Dallas, but he has done well with the playing time he has received, and another team may envision a larger role for him. Fox, Reitz, and Winston are among the other players who should be able to provide respectable production in the event of injuries to starters.

For the most part, the players in this group will be signed as the third or fourth tackle on a team’s depth chart, and won’t be relied upon to play major roles in 2015.

Restricted FAs:

Barclay represents the most intriguing name in this group — he started at right tackle for the Packers in 2013, but missed the entire 2014 campaign with an ACL injury. Green Bay has to make a decision on 2014’s right tackle (Bulaga) as well, and it seems logical that the club will keep one or the other. If the club manages to work out a deal with Bulaga, Barclay could garner some interest as a bounce-back candidate.

The Vikings’ Harris filled in at right tackle for the team down the stretch and was solid, so I expect Minnesota to retain him, even if he heads back to the bench. Sowell and New Orleans’ Harris don’t figure to receive RFA tenders.

Previous looks at the 2015 free agent market:

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