Very few NFL teams will carry over four or five offensive line starters from 2013 to 2014. While many clubs will attempt to fill their holes with internal alternatives, or by selecting players from what’s considered a very deep draft class, plenty will turn to free agency.
The Dolphins, Broncos, Browns, Rams, Bucs, Falcons, Chiefs, Rams, Texans, and Vikings are among the teams who could need to replace starting guards who will depart as free agents or cap casualties. The Seahawks, Bills, Colts, Buccaneers, and Jaguars may not have the same number of pending free agents, but they may be in the market for an upgrade after subpar guard performance on one side or the other last season. Meanwhile, the Chargers, Giants, and Jets would be on the lookout for upgrades even if they didn’t have prospective free agents, which they do.
We just mentioned more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams, and it’s fair to assume that several other clubs could get involved in the free agent market as well, as they look to add bench depth at the guard position. With so many teams eyeing stop-gap or long-term solutions, and only a small number of top-tier options available, it should be an interesting free agent period. Let’s check out some of the players expected to hit the open market on March 11….
Two of the four guards we have listed as first-tier options, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, come from the same team, and the Chiefs will likely try to keep at least one of the two. If only half the duo returns to Kansas City, I’d expect Asamoah to be the one leaving town — he lost his starting job toward the end of last season, despite a solid overall performance.
The third top-tier guard on this year’s market is the Panthers’ Travelle Wharton, who has hinted recently that he might consider retirement. Assuming he does keep playing, Wharton has suggested that he’d love to return to Carolina, but the Panthers don’t have a ton of cap flexibility, and considering the lack of elite guards available in free agency, he should receive plenty of interest.
As the longtime starting left guard of the defending AFC champions, Zane Beadles should also do well on the open market. Beadles recorded a subpar grade in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus, but his relative youth (he’s 27) and a strong 2012 should earn him a nice payday.
Chad Rinehart‘s was excellent for the Bills in his only full season (2011), but has never appeared in more than 11 games in any of his other four NFL seasons, so there may be question marks about how he’ll hold up as a fulltime starter. Meanwhile, Kevin Boothe‘s advanced numbers fell off a little last season, along with the rest of the Giants’ line, but with a set position and perhaps a new situation, there’s no reason to think he won’t provide solid production in 2014.
Shelley Smith and Willie Colon each excel in a particular area — run blocking for Smith and pass blocking for Colon. Unfortunately, they can’t maintain that level of production across the board, with Smith’s pass blocking and Colon’s penalty problems both acting as potential liabilities. Still, in the right offense, they could be effective starters.
Many of the other second-tier options have red flags in one area or another. Brian Waters remains productive, but his age and health mean he shouldn’t necessarily be relied upon as a 16-game starter, if he continues his career. There are also injury concerns with Mike Pollak, who has missed 23 games over the last two seasons due to injuries. Shawn Lauvao has yet to post a positive PFF grade in any of his four NFL seasons, though he’s still young enough to have some upside. As for Wade Smith, there’s certainly something to be said for a player who has started every game for four straight seasons, but he’s coming off a down year for Houston in 2013.
Finally, the wild cards of this group are Richie Incognito and John Jerry. Jerry, who is three years younger than Incognito, and wasn’t as tainted by the Ted Wells report, will have an easier time finding work, but it’s hard to predict how much his involvement in last year’s bullying scandal will affect his value. In any case, it’s safe to assume neither player will return to Miami.
Teams aren’t likely to find an elite starter amongst this group, but there’s still some appeal to a player like Garrett Reynolds, who has recorded positive grades in about a full season’s worth of snaps over the last two seasons, or Charlie Johnson, who has started all but six games in the last six years even though his performance generally ranks below average. Chris Williams, Paul McQuistan, and Mike McGlynn are among the other available options coming off subpar performances as starters.
Free Agent Market For Quarterbacks
Free Agent Market For Running Backs
Free Agent Market For Wide Receivers
Free Agent Market For Tight Ends
Free Agent Market For Offensive Tackles
Free Agent Market For Centers