Free agency preview: A few standout left tackles highlight a strong offensive line group

Free agency preview: A few standout left tackles highlight a strong offensive line group
Free agency preview: A few standout left tackles highlight a strong offensive line group

With the NFL's salary cap increasing by about $10 million from last year to $133 million and teams having holes to fill, free agency should be hectic. Shutdown Corner will have you covered, with a preview of a different position each day leading up to the start of the free-agency period on Tuesday.

Here is Shutdown Corner’s breakdown of free agent offensive linemen:

Market Watch
There is something for everyone in this class of linemen. There are top left tackles, mauling guards and impact centers. There are players who can start and star right away and others who would provide solid depth. After the flurry of signings the past week, this group might be the strongest remaining as free agency nears. There will be some massive contracts handed out to the big fellas.

[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]

Top Attraction: Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens OT
Monroe is a rarity on the unrestricted free-agent market: A proven, top player at a premium position who is just entering his prime. He has been in the top 15 of Pro Football Focus' tackle rankings each of the last three years, and he doesn't turn 27 until mid-April. The former first-round pick is good in run blocking and pass protection. It's hard to figure out how the rebuilding Jaguars, who traded Monroe to the Ravens in the middle of last season, are better off without a top left tackle like him, but that's another story.

Simply, there's not a safer and better investment in all of free agency than Monroe. He'll get top dollar.

Buyer Beware: Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens OT
Oher will always be famous as the player who inspired "The Blind Side" book and movie. As a football player, he has been good, but not great. The former first-round pick has started every game for the Ravens the last five years, but his grades have slipped two straight years and he was just 68th among 76 graded tackles by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season. Oher, ironically, never could establish himself as a left tackle in the NFL. He's a solid right tackle and will be just 28 years old by next season, and can be a usable starter for a team. But that team (maybe the Ravens, who are in danger of losing two tackles in free agency?) has to be careful to not spend too much on him.

Frugal Addition: Anthony Collins, Cincinnati Bengals OT
It's possible that Collins won't be such a bargain on the market. He put himself on the map late last year, starting seven games at left tackle for the AFC North champion Bengals. He played well and hits free agency at age 28, still a ripe age for a left tackle. Great timing.

Teams know who Collins is and he'll still get a nice contract, but still should come significantly cheaper than some of the top free-agent left tackles available.

The Buzz
Browns center Alex Mack is one of the few offensive linemen who were addressed before free agency began. Cleveland didn't sign him to a long-term deal, but put the transition tag on him. That guarantees Mack a little more than $10 million for 2014 if he plays under the tag, so if anyone bothers to sign him (the Browns can match, but don't get any compensation if they don't) it'll be steep. The tag allows the Browns to keep some control over Mack while working on a long-term contract, which is ultimately what they want.

Best of the Rest
Jared Veldheer and Branden Albert will be starting at left tackle for someone next season, and getting paid quite well to do so. If a team loses out on Monroe, these two players are still great options. ... Mack isn't the only center on the market. Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith, New Orleans Brian De La Puente, San Francisco's Jonathan Goodwin and New England's Ryan Wendell are all starting-caliber centers who could fill a void for a team. ... The Chiefs have a lot to lose in free agency. Albert is a good left tackle and both starting guards, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah, are free agents too. Schwartz and Asamoah might be the two best guards available. ... One interesting player is St. Louis' Rodger Saffold, because he can play either guard or either tackle position. That makes him an option for almost any team with cap room.

Shutdown Corner's free agency preview schedule
March 3: Shutdown Corners's top 25 free agents
March 4: Quarterbacks
March 5: Running backs
March 6: Receivers/tight ends
March 7: Offensive linemen
March 8: Defensive backs
March 9: Linebackers
March 10: Defensive line

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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