With Free Agency on the horizon its time to look at the top names that will have General Managers and Head Coaches salivating. This piece will look at the top 5 free agents along the offensive line, those anonymous guys who allow the Cam Newton’s and Adrian Peterson’s to do what they do without being demolished by angry defenses.
1. Alex Mack, Center, Cleveland Browns
Mack opted out from the end of his Cleveland Browns contract, but he hasn’t ruled out a return there. Mack has long been one of the best Centers in the NFL as he possesses both the ability to run the protections himself and is a phenominal blocker. I expect him to get one of the biggest contracts in the NFL this free agency period, never mind just on the offensive line.
At 30 Mack might not get the 5 or 6 year deal some of the others might but his dollar value will still be huge.
2. Kelechi Osemele, Left Guard, Baltimore Ravens
Osemele is probably going to end up as a guard wherever he lands in 2016, but he can play tackle at a reasonable level as well so that could be an option for a team.
He’s had a very good first run in the NFL, helping the Ravens offense generate one of the more consistent ground games and learning from the best around in Marshal Yanda. He’s a bruiser as a run blocker and agile enough to cope with space in pass protection. At just 26 Osemele should be in line for a long contract with a good guarantee. A team with money to spare and blocking concerns like Jacksonville should be very interested in Osemele’s services.
UPDATE: Osemele is expected to sign with the Oakland Raiders when Free Agency opens for a deal reportedly in the region of $60 million for 5 yrs
3. Russell Okung, Left Tackle, Seattle Seahawks
Even though he’s a left tackle and still young (28), Okung’s injury history will scare some teams and reduce his negotiating power. He is yet to play all 16 games in a season and that is a huge red flag for teams when it comes to paying at a premium position like left tackle.
When he has been on the field he’s usually very good. He has struggled with elite pass rushers like Robert Quinn in the past, but then who hasn’t?
4. Evan Mathis, Left Guard, Denver Broncos
Mathis is an interesting name. He was brilliant at the Eagles and his move last year as part of the great Chip Kelly experiment was unexpected. Injuries hampered him early on in Denver but as the season progressed he was getting back towards his All-Pro best.
There is a chance Mathis doesn’t sign until Training Camp has already started, as a veteran a longer off-season will do him good, but whoever does sign him had a chance of getting a top 5 guard performance in 2016.
5. Richie Incognito, Left Guard, Buffalo Bills
Another name you might not expect to see here. Incognito did a great job rehabilitating his image in 2015. He put in a stellar on-field performance in Buffalo and kept his nose clean in the locker room. He will be 33 by the time the 2016 season starts so this is probably his last chance at a big free agent deal.