Free agency primer: Top 15 offensive linemen


Barring a flurry of activity prior to Monday's deadline for franchise tags, the offensive tackle market should be lively this year. There are three left tackles with Pro Bowl ability set to hit the market, and teams such as the Dolphins and Cardinals are ready to pounce.

While Alex Mack is set to become the most valuable center to reach free agency in years, the picture at guard isn't nearly as pretty. The best of a weak crop might be a journeyman who didn't land a starting job until late last season.

Here's a look at the entire offensive line breakdown entering free agency.

In a class of their own

1. Eugene Monroe, OT, Baltimore Ravens 
2. Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns (UPDATE: The Browns placed the transition tag on Mack.)
3. Jared Veldheer, OT, Oakland Raiders
4. Branden Albert, OT, Kansas City Chiefs

Are the Ravens trying to depress Monroe's value by intimating that he's not worthy of the franchise tag, even with Dennis Pitta locked up? If Monroe makes it to the open market, he's going to be paid as the best mix of age, talent and well-rounded production available. ... Just 28 years old, Mack has never missed a snap in five seasons with the Browns. He might just be the NFL's premier center.

Veldheer has ideal size, is still young and has a strong record as a blind-side protector. ... Albert has been among the league's premier pass blockers for three years.

Solid starters

Like this year's draft class, the 2014 free-agent crop is deep and talented. Take a look at the top remaining 25 NFL free agents.

5. Rodger Saffold, T/G, St. Louis Rams
6. Anthony Collins, OT, Cincinnati Bengals
7. Michael Oher, OT, Baltimore Ravens
8. Jon Asamoah, G, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Zach Strief, OT, New Orleans Saints
10. Davin Joseph, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11. Zane Beadles, G, Denver Broncos

Saffold is willing to play left tackle or guard and is capable at both spots. While his versatility is attractive, his medical chart will give interested teams pause. ... Collins has excelled as a pass protector in spot starts over the past half-decade. Why haven't the Bengals considered him starter-caliber until now? ... The Ravens have soured on Oher, who was one of the NFL's weakest run-blocking tackles in 2013.

A plus starter the past three years, Asamoah surprisingly lost his job to Geoff Schwartz down the stretch last season. ... Strief has been a rock-solid right tackle, which is why the Saints want him back. ... Beadles should attract interest from guard-needy teams, such as the Giants.

Starters with questions

12. Travelle Wharton, G, Carolina Panthers
13. Geoff Schwartz, G, Kansas City Chiefs
14. Brian De La Puente, C, New Orleans Saints
15. Evan Dietrich-Smith, C, Green Bay Packers

Wharton played at a Pro Bowl level last season, but is going on 33 years old and mulling his NFL future. ... Schwartz impressed down the stretch last season as a road-grading run blocker. ... De La Puente and Dietrich-Smith have risen up the center ranks the past two seasons, but their teams aren't going out of their way to re-sign them. ... Howard is no longer a liability at right tackle.

Best of the rest

Chad Rinehart, Wade Smith, Willie Colon, Jonathan Goodwin, Shawn Lauvao, Bryant McKinnie, Marshall Newhouse, Eric Winston, Tony Pashos, Breno Giacomini, Charles Brown, Tyson Clabo, Joe Hawley, Jason Fox, Dennis Roland, Will Svitek, Charlie Johnson, John Jerry, Paul McQuistan, Ryan Wendell, Kevin Boothe, Vladimir Ducasse, Mike McGlynn, Fernando Velasco, J.D. Walton and Brian Waters.

Teams with the biggest need

With the offseason underway, Around The League explores what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | 49ers | Rams | Seahawks

Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets

Match made in heaven: Alex Mack, Indianapolis Colts

Might Mack be the Jeff Saturday to Andrew Luck's Peyton Manning? Former Browns coach Rob Chudzinski landed a special-assistant role as Chuck Pagano's right-hand man. The Colts desperately need an upgrade on the interior, and center Samson Satele is a cap casualty candidate.

Toughest to evaluate: Branden Albert

The Chiefs were willing to franchise-tag Albert as a premier pass protector, but wouldn't sign on for a long-term commitment. The Dolphins were willing to meet Albert's contract demands last offseason, but couldn't reach agreement on compensation with Kansas City. Is there more to the hesitancy than subpar run blocking and last year's rumors of a bad back?

Best bets for a surprising contract: Anthony Collins, Geoff Schwartz

The Bengals never seemed sold on Collins' run blocking, but he didn't allow a single sack in eight starts at left tackle once Andrew Whitworth was moved inside late last season. ... Capable of playing tackle and guard, the 6-foot-6 Schwartz helped pave the way for an improved Chiefs offense that scored 35 points in five of its last seven games.

The latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast" works through our top 101 free agents and responds to some heat from Donte Whitner.