When it comes to free agency, offensive linemen are incredibly difficult to project, owing in part to the lack of traditional statistics to use as a benchmark. So as I provide an assist to Jason in continuing OTC’s series of previews for 2016’s free agency period, keep in mind that these projections originate strongly from intuition and reliance on existing comparables among their positional peers. With that said, the 2015 NFL season has been notable for poor offensive line play for multiple teams, and the top linemen finishing up their contract years could stand to find a favorable market should they enter it.
Russell Okung, Seahawks (LT)
With the Seahawks locking up Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom to long term deals, could Okung be one of the odd men out in Seattle? Okung is also one of the few players remaining finishing out a rookie contract from the previous CBA, and as such his worth had already been established with that six year, $48.5 million deal. I would expect Okung to at least match his rookie deal, and push for besting the deal Branden Albert got from Miami.
Projected Value: 5 years, $45-49 million
Alex Mack, Browns (C)
Cleveland matched a five year, $42 million offer sheet the Jaguars made to Mack in 2014. That contract also contained a player option to void the contract after two years. Should Mack choose to exercise that option at the end of this season, I would not be surprised if the Jaguars take another swing at him, given that they set up their current center situation as a short term solution (more on that below). If so, they could easily just recycle their offer sheet, slightly adjusted for salary cap inflation, to come close to recently sealed deals with the likes of Mike Pouncey and Rodney Hudson.
Projected Value: 5 years, $43-45 million
Kelvin Beachum, Steelers (LT)
Beachum suffered a fate that so many players dread: tearing an ACL in his contract year. While ACL tears aren’t as debilitating as they used to be, it does enter a small amount of uncertainty to Beachum’s future. The Steelers had approached Beachum about a possible extension last offseason, and I would think that despite the injury there will still be mutual interest. The ACL injury might prevent Beachum from reaching the upper echelon of left tackles, but because it’s such a valued position and teams are desperate to improve their offensive line situations I can’t imagine he’d be that far off that upper echelon.
Projected Value: 5 years, $40-44 million
Kelechi Osemele, Ravens (LG)
Osemele looks to be the yearly UFA that the Ravens will let walk to ensure that, as usual, they will get at least one high compensatory pick for the future. A contract somewhere in between what Orlando Franklin got with the Chargers, and what his recently extended teammate in Marshal Yanda got, would seem to be in play on the open market.
Projected Value: 5 years, $37-41 million
Cordy Glenn, Bills (LT)
Teams not inclined to compete in the precedent that exists with Okung may be better served with taking a look at Glenn, who has started all but three games since his arrival in Buffalo. With the Bills projected to be cap strapped in 2016 it will be curious to see if they will be unable to afford retaining him. For the right team that’s looking for a massively sized left tackle, Glenn could in turn be looking for a deal that may be in the range of a Will Beatty or Eugene Monroe.
Projected Value: 5 years, $35-39 million
Mitchell Schwartz, Browns (RT)
With the presence of superstar teammates on the line like Mack and Joe Thomas, Schwartz may go a bit under the radar, but he has started every available game at right tackle since he joined the Browns as a rookie. Don’t be surprised if he’s able to secure a deal around other recent right tackle deals like Jermey Parnell or even Bryan Bulaga.
Projected Value: 5 years, $30-34 million
Alex Boone, 49ers (LG)
Boone engaged in a high profile showdown with the 49ers in 2014 to gain a better deal at the end of his contract. With the 49ers undeniably in a period of great transition Boone may very well desire to not want to be a part of that process. The big question will be how much of San Francisco’s recent struggles will weigh down on Boone’s value on the open market. At only age 28 I wouldn’t think it will make a huge difference.
Projected Value: 4 years, $21-25 million
Jeff Allen, Chiefs (RT)
Injuries have hampered Allen during his rookie contract, but for his contract year he has proven useful for a Kansas City line that’s been able to keep its offense producing even with the loss of skill players like Jamaal Charles to injury. Should the Chiefs let him walk, Allen’s versatility in transitioning from guard to right tackle may intrigue some teams looking for an offensive line upgrade without aggressively breaking the bank.
Projected Value: 4 years, $17-21 million
Stefen Wisniewski, Jaguars (C)
Wisniewski was one of the greatest mysteries of last year’s free agency, seemingly destined for a lucrative long term deal, but only able to secure a one-year, $2 million contract for a Jaguars team that had earlier swung and missed on Alex Mack. Wisniewski has once again started every available game, and it will be curious to see how much of his overestimated value is due to his actual talent, and how much is due to playing for low-profile, struggling teams like the Raiders and Jaguars. But with so many teams needing to upgrade their line, you’d have to think that Wisniewski will do better this time around.
Projected Value: 3 years, $9-11 million
Evan Mathis, Broncos (LG)
Mathis was caught in the unusual position of being highly regarded by many observers but falling out of favor with his coach in Philadelphia late in the offseason. He found refuge in Denver for one year so that the Broncos could break in their young additions at a slower pace. Age will be the big question mark with Mathis at 34, but he’s certainly done enough in Denver to get one last shot at a decent contract.
Projected Value: 2 years, $8-10 million
Best of the Rest
Andre Smith is seeing his second contract expire and could get some interest but also seems to be one of the Bengals’ loyal soldiers that could be content to just staying in Cincinnati…Donald Penn has long had a quiet yet underrated career but at age 32 his best move now might be to re-sign with a Raiders team that is cap-flush for 2016…Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks are a pair of starting interior linemen from the Texans that could be running under the radar right now, as well as the Rams’ Tim Barnes…Richie Incognito has had a bit of a renaissance with the Bills, but his unfavorable history may not find him many other homes other than in Buffalo.