The offensive line is the most underappreciated and undervalued position group on the football team. Every team needs to add offensive linemen. Even the league’s best need to add depth.
Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles had the best unit in the league. They may not need to add a starter, but getting more quality backups and future starters will help them continue to have the best group.
On the other end of the spectrum, the New York Giants had one viable starter and he is a free agent that played out of position out of necessity last season. The Giants could go into 2018 with five new starters on the offensive line. The Minnesota Vikings did it last season and improved from the bottom of the league to the middle and won 13 games. The Giants shouldn’t expect to have that kind of leap, but it shows, it could happen.
Here are the best offensive tackles scheduled to be free agents on March 14.
#1 - Nate Solder, Patriots
The Patriots have a reputation for letting players leave at just the right time. That has to make you wonder about Solder. He is a big left tackle that has been Tom Brady’s blind side protector. The expectation is that the Patriots re-sign, but, if not, he will be one of the top sought-after offensive linemen.
#2 - Justin Pugh, Giants
Pugh played right tackle for the Giants last season but is best playing inside. His value in free agency will be determined by what position the team wants him to play. Before last season, he was one of the best guards in the league. As a tackle, he is a league-average edge blocker.
#3 - Cameron Fleming, Patriots
Fleming took over as the starting right tackle following season-ending injuries to opening day starter Marcus Cannon and first backup LaAdrian Waddle. Fleming played in 15 regular and postseason games and became the starter in Week 13. He did a pretty good job and will likely be re-signed by the Patriots. This is a thin group of free agent offensive tackles, which could get him paid on the open market.
Wild Card - Chris Hubbard, Steelers
Hubbard took over as the starting right tackle when Marcus Gilbert went down and performed very well. He has filled in well for Gilbert through his various injuries and a suspension. Reports state the Steelers will not be able to re-sign the 26-year-old as a backup.
Here are the best guards scheduled to be free agents on March 14.
#1 - Andrew Norwell, Panthers
Norwell has a good reputation within the league. He is one of the best guards and the Panthers are unsure they will be able to re-sign him. He is the best lineman expected to be available when the legal tampering period begins on March 12.
#2 - Josh Kline, Titans
Kline has developed in a consistent starter for the Titans since they claimed him off waivers from the Patriots in 2016. The 28-year-old has played in and started all but two games for the Titans while moving above the league-average line. He may not be a high-ceiling talent type of guard, but isn’t going to kill a team either. He is kind of a player that matches the rest of the unit.
#3 - Brandon Fusco, 49ers
Fusco was a high-end right guard for the Vikings, but a torn pectoral in 2014 derailed things a bit. He was just average the next two seasons and the team cut him after 2016. He signed with the 49ers and was okay. He is a league-average guard at this point and may be worth re-signing.
Wild Card - Joe Berger, Vikings
Berger has been a very reliable and versatile interior lineman for the Vikings. The biggest question surrounding him is whether he will play another season or retire. He is turning 39-years-old in May and considered retirement before last season. The Vikings expect a decision soon, but whatever he decides will have an effect on the Vikings offseason plan.
Here are the best centers scheduled to be free agents on March 14.
#1 - John Sullivan, Rams
Sullivan may be nearing the end of his NFL career at 32-years-old and after a couple back surgeries over two years ago. However, he proved last season that he still has something left with the Rams. His football IQ was a big help for second-year quarterback Jared Goff. He will probably be back with the Rams in 2018.
#2 - Ryan Jensen, Ravens
Jensen plays with an edge in the interior of the offensive line. He has been playing year-to-year with the Ravens, the team that drafted him in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. He has re-signed with the team to one-year deals each of the last three offseasons, but this year a multi-year contract could be in the offering.
#3 - Travis Swanson, Lions
When healthy, Swanson is one of the best centers in the league and would be at the top of this list. However, he has missed multiple games in each of the last three seasons. The only season he has played in all 16 games was his rookie season, in which he started only five and had limited playing time the other 11.