The free agency period for the 2014 season begins at 4:00pm on Tuesday, March 11th.
Today’s preview focuses on the offensive linemen, the men in the trenches who protect quarterbacks and open holes up for the running backs.
Here is a list of select offensive linemen who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. These players can re-sign with their current teams at any time and can already begin negotiating, but not yet sign with other teams.
Branden Albert/OT/Chiefs (6’5, 316lbs) – A 29 year-old tackle out of Virginia, Albert has played both left and right tackle. He has started 85 games over the course of his six year career with the Kansas City Chiefs. A lineman with quick feet and quick reflexes, Albert excels in handling pass rushers off the edge. He played and started in 13 games last year at left tackle, missing three due to injury. (UPDATE 3/12: Branden Albert has signed with the Miami Dolphins.)
Jon Asamoah/OG/Chiefs (6’4, 305lbs) – The second of three Kansas City Chiefs on this list. The 6’4, 305-pound Asamoah started 41 games over the past four years for the KC and is a highly rated guard in this class. He’s been a solid over most of his career in both pass blocking and run blocking for the Chiefs, despite being benched midway through the season for Geoff Schwartz. He started in nine games and played in 14 last season. (UPDATE 3/11: Asamoah has signed with the Atlanta Falcons.)
Zane Beadles/OG/Broncos (6’4, 305lbs) – A four-year veteran out of Utah, Beadles has started in every game in his career thus far for Denver. He was a major part of the stellar offensive line that helped the Broncos create a record setting offense in 2013. Beadles is especially proficient in the passing game, and moves well in space to create holes in the screen game. (UPDATE 3/11: Beadles has agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars.)
Anthony Collins/OT/Bengals (6’5, 315lbs) – A spot starter for most of his career, Collins had his best season as a pro this year, playing in 15 games and starting in seven for Cincinnati. A right tackle that can also swap over to the other side to play the blindside, Collins was very proficient protecting Bengals signal caller Andy Dalton, despite being consistently swapped in and out of the Cincy lineup. (UPDATE 3/13: Anthony Collins has agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)
Evan Dietrich-Smith/C/Packers (6’2, 308lbs) – Starting every game for the Packers this past season for the first time in his five-year career, Dietrich-Smith was a stabilizing force on an offensive line that went through a lot of changes in Green Bay. Well respected and trusted by his quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Dietrich-Smith is solid in every aspect of offensive line play, and was the leader of Green Bay’s line. (UPDATE 3/14: Evan Dietrich-Smith has agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)
Austin Howard/OT/Jets (6’7, 333lbs) – The starting right tackle for the Jets the past two seasons after being signed off the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad two years ago, the 6’7 Howard helped contribute to an offensive line that was part of the league’s 6th best rushing attack last year. He replaced Wayne Hunter in 2012, and the Jets O-line immediately improved. Howard only allowed two sacks all of last season. (UPDATE 3/12: Austin Howard has signed with the Oakland Raiders.)
Davin Joseph/OG/Buccaneers (6’3, 313lbs) – Cut by the Buccaneers just last week, the former first round pick by Tampa Bay in 2006 and two-time Pro Bowler has had a bit of bad luck since 2012. Joseph lost all of his 2012 season to an injury, and struggled mightily in 2013. The 30-year-old did start in all 16 games last season for Tampa Bay, and has played in 100 games in his career, starting all but one.
Alex Mack/C/Browns (6’4, 318lbs) – Potentially one of the top centers in the NFL due to his athleticism and intellect, Mack was given the transition tag by the Cleveland Browns by the tag deadline a week ago. This means that Mack has the ability to search in free agency for a new contract, but the Browns can match any offer given to him if they choose to do so. The 28 year-old hasn’t missed a game in his five seasons in the NFL, making 80 consecutive starts. If he chooses to sign the one-year, $10 million tender with the Browns, he is no longer a free agent.
Eugene Monroe/OT/Ravens (6’5, 306lbs) – Traded to the Ravens from the Jacksonville Jaguars in early October of this season, the former first round pick out of Virginia started 11 games for Baltimore at the left tackle position. At 26 years old and in the prime of his career, Monroe is the prototypical blind side protector. He’s played in 76 games, starting 73 of them. (UPDATE 3/11: Eugene Monroe has signed a contract to remain with the Baltimore Ravens.)
Michael Oher/OT/Ravens (6’4, 315lbs) – While the movie about him suggests that Oher protects quarterbacks blind sides, he actually has played right tackle for the Ravens since 2011. He has been productive and healthy enough to all 80 games of his professional career, which began in the 2009 season. (UPDATE 3/14: Michael Oher has signed with the Tennessee Titans.)
Rodger Saffold/OL/Rams (6’5, 332lbs) – A man who can play both the guard and tackle position, Saffold of the St. Louis Rams may very well be the most versatile offensive line available in free agency. The Rams’ 2010 second round pick played in 12 games this season, starting in nine at a variety of positions. The 25-year-old Saffold has started 44 games in four NFL seasons. (UPDATE 3/13: Rodger Saffold has re-signed with the St. Louis Rams.)
Geoff Schwartz/OG/Chiefs (6’6, 340lbs) – Most known for his powerful run blocking, the 27 year-old Schwartz made his mark late in the NFL season last year replacing fellow free agent guard Jon Asamoah, and starting six of the final seven games for Kansas City last season. Schwartz is a five year veteran out of Oregon and one of three starting Chiefs lineman that are on the market this spring. He’s started 26 games in his career, and played in 61. (UPDATE 3/12: Geoff Schwartz has signed with the New York Giants.)
Travelle Wharton/OG/Panthers (6’4, 315lbs) – The most senior player on this list, the 32 year-old Wharton started 12 games for the Panthers last season at left guard, and featured in all 16 games for Carolina. A crafty veteran guard who’s been pretty consistent his entire career, Wharton has started 111 games in his career and played in 115, all with the Panthers. He’ll most likely end up with a team on a short contract due to his age (he turns 33 in May).
Jared Veldheer/OT/Raiders (6’8, 321lbs) – The 26 year-old Veldheer is one of the several potentially high priced left tackles in this free agent class, and with good reason. The 6’8, 321 pounder has the look of a bonafide blind-side protector, and is very fresh, only playing the equivalent of three and half seasons in the NFL (he missed 11 games last season due to injury). He excels as a pass protector given his long arms and good punch, and moves very well. Before last season, he had played in every game in his career. (UPDATE 3/12: Jared Veldheer has signed with the Arizona Cardinals.)
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