NFL free agency preview: Not many tackles among top offensive linemen

Shutdown Corner

There are some good offensive linemen about to hit free agency. There just aren’t that many tackles, especially left tackles.

There ways for teams in need to bolster their lines, but it will probably be from the inside out unless you’re willing to pay heavily for Nate Solder, who is clearly the best left tackle on the market. There are multiple quality options at guard and tackle.

[Check out our top quarterbacks, top skill-position players and top defensive players available in free agency this offseason, as well as a look at team-by-team needs.]

Here are the top 12 offensive linemen available in free agency:

1. Patriots OT Nate Solder

We can argue if Solder is really the best lineman in free agency this year, but it’s probably a good bet he gets the biggest contract. If you need a left tackle, this is your best option. The seven-year starter from the Patriots could get more than $12 million per year according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. 

New England Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder (77) should get a huge contract in free agency. (AP)
New England Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder (77) should get a huge contract in free agency. (AP)

2. Panthers G Andrew Norwell

Norwell took a huge step forward in a contract year, and he’s about to cash in. Norwell made first-team All-Pro for the Panthers last season, his first such honor. He’ll get a large, long-term deal at age 26. For weeks reports have said the New York Giants are the most likely destination.

3. Titans G Josh Kline

Kline has been part of a strong Titans line, after starting his career with the Patriots. He started all 16 games at right guard last year, and will find a nice payday somewhere.

4. Giants G Justin Pugh

Pugh is probably better suited at left guard, but moved to right tackle when he was needed there and held his own. Given how few quality tackles are available, teams be interested in him as a tackle. He is coming off a back injury that landed him on injured reserve, so teams will have to keep that in mind.

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5. Ravens C Ryan Jensen

Jensen got a chance to start last season and did quite well. He has a bit of a reputation for being nasty, and he’s recognizable for his long hair flowing out of the back of his helmet. Last season was his first as a season-long starter, but he did well enough to earn a nice contract.

6. Giants C Weston Richburg

Richburg was a second-round pick and a regular starter all four seasons with the Giants. A concussion that limited him to four games last season complicates his free agency a bit.

7. Bears G Josh Sitton

Sitton will be 32 years old this season, and on his third team in four years. Still, he’s a four-time Pro Bowler and should have years left as a good starting guard.

8. Rams C John Sullivan 

Sullivan will turn 33 years old before next season, but he still has good football left in him. Teams looking for an experienced center will note that Sullivan has 109 career starts between the Vikings, Redskins and Rams.

9. Colts G Jack Mewhort

Mewhort is a versatile former second-round pick, but teams will have to wonder about his health. Knee issues limited him to just 15 games the past two seasons. He’s fine if he’s healthy, but it’s far from a guarantee his knee will hold up.

10. Patriots OT Cameron Fleming

Fleming got a chance to start at right tackle due to injuries late in the season, including starts in the AFC championship game and Super Bowl, and that probably helped him before hitting free agency. Fleming isn’t a rock-solid option, but he’s a capable tackle in a thin market.

11. Steelers OT Chris Hubbard

Hubbard has a few things going for him: He’s 26 years old, he started 10 games last season, and he’s a tackle. That’s enough to garner some interest. Being able to start 10 games as an injury replacement helped. It’s possible he could sign as a starting right tackle with a team in need.

12. Lions C Travis Swanson

Swanson has a concussion history, though the Detroit Free Press said Swanson’s agents claim symptoms he showed last year that led him going on injured reserve were actually reaction to medication. Swanson had a lot more promise a couple years ago as a former third-round pick, but perhaps some team will gamble on his health and draft pedigree.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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