You’ve heard by now how hard it is for NFL teams to find good offensive linemen.
The proliferation of spread offenses in college has made it very hard for teams to scout offensive linemen in the draft. That means when a quality offensive lineman hits free agency, there will be a frenzy to sign him. Last year Nate Solder, who has never made a Pro Bowl, signed a four-year, $62 million deal. That was a record for annual average for an offensive lineman, until the Titans signed Taylor Lewan to a five-year, $80 million extension.
The names on this list might not be household names to the casual fan, but they’re about to get very rich. Good linemen are still hard to find, and here are the top 10 in this year’s free-agent class (we’ve counted down our top free-agent quarterbacks, defensive players, skill-position players and examined each team before free agency officially kicks off next Wednesday):
1. G Rodger Saffold
Saffold’s most memorable free-agency moment was when he agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Raiders in 2014, then the Raiders voided the deal due to a failed physical. A funny thing happened: Saffold returned to the Rams and became a very good guard for a great offense. And now he’s going to get that big contract.
2. OT Trent Brown
A trade from the 49ers to the Patriots was the best thing to happen to Brown. Brown had a good year working with famed offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, won a Super Bowl and can now cash in during free agency.
3. OT Daryl Williams
Williams missed almost all of last season with a knee injury, but that shouldn’t affect his market too much. In 2017 he had a good season, and showed he was capable of being a quality NFL right tackle.
4. OT Ja’Wuan James
James, a 2014 first-round pick, has developed into a solid right tackle. Injuries have been an issue, but the Dolphins have said they want him back.
5. C Mitch Morse
Morse was a second-round pick in 2015 by the Chiefs and a starter in each of his four seasons with them. He won’t turn 27 until April and if the Chiefs can’t sign him before free agency, he’ll be in demand.
6. C Matt Paradis
Paradis was Denver’s starter the past four years though he missed seven games last season with a broken leg. He’s still just 29, and it’s a little odd why the Broncos haven’t made more of a push to re-sign him.
7. G Ramon Foster
If Foster was younger, he’d get a huge contract. At 33, he’s still a very good option at left guard after 131 starts for the Steelers.
8. G Andy Levitre
From 2009-2016, Levitre started every possible game for the Bills, Titans and Falcons. Injuries have been a factor the last two years (he played in just two games last season), but he’s still a good guard and just 33 years old this season.
9. OT Ty Nsekhe
A 34-year old tackle with 16 career starts, who didn’t establish himself in the NFL until age 30, doesn’t seem like a big prize. But it’s hard to find competent offensive linemen, and Nsekhe has played well when the Redskins needed him.
10. OT George Fant
Fant was a strange tale. He played basketball in college and hadn’t started a football game since middle school, until the Seahawks made him a starter in 2016. Fant was fine, considering the circumstances, and is a good athlete. Injuries have set him back. He’s certainly an interesting free-agent case.
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