Friday, March 9, 2012

Free agency preview: offensive tackle

Offensive tackle

Top 10 UFA OTs:
1 - Eric Winston: cut by Texans 3/13; signed by Chiefs 3/17. One of the best run-blocking tackles in the league.
1a - Anthony Collins: 26-year-old RT, 6'5 315, mobile, does not give up a lot of pass pressures, Bengals have run well behind him. Never a full-time starter there, though. (Re-signed by Bengals 3/24)
2 – Jared Gaither: super for San Diego down the stretch but has had a far-from-consistent career. Makes a lot of mental mistakes. (Signed by Chargers 3/16)
3 – Demetress Bell: is expecting major $$$ but may have been on his way to Buffalo's bench anyway. Grades out as an excellent LT but has had major durability issues and just had knee surgery. (Signed by Eagles 4/4)
4 - Khalif Barnes: 29, starting RT would be nosebleed-upside. (Re-signed by Raiders 3/21)
5 - Jeff Backus: Detroit really wants him back at age 35 even though he's increasingly ineffective and banged-up. (Signed by Lions 3/20)
6 - Dennis Roland: very good athlete with upside, can pass-protect but has never taken over starting job in Cincinnati. (Re-signed by Bengals 4/12)
7 - Adam Goldberg: yep, this FA class is this bad.
8 - Quinn Ojinnaka: still don't understand how Ojinnaka lost out on a spot with the Rams last training camp. Played well enough. (Signed by Rams 3/22)
9 - Frank Omiyale: cut by Bears, gives you about what Goldberg does. (Signed by Seahawks 3/21)
10 – Pat McQuistan: like the three before him, can give you depth at multiple line positions but you'll be lucky if he impresses at any of them. (signed by Cowboys 6/11)

Sleepers: Just for the sake of having one, I'll say Oniel Cousins, but if you're bringing him aboard, it's to play guard. He washed out at tackle in Baltimore; doesn't have the feet for it. Despite that, he's a former 3rd-round draft pick, and his physical tools are going to attract someone. I apologize that a lot of guys who are actually guards have made their way into this list. Pro Football Weekly seems to consider anyone a tackle who can play tackle even a little. (Cousins re-signed with Browns 3/15)

Wild card: So many conflicting forces in determining what to do with Jason Smith. The Rams used the #2 pick overall on him. Do they like him enough to keep him at all? He makes a ton of money but wouldn't help the cap much if the Rams cut him. Would they keep him at tackle, where he looked decent at times? Would they try him at guard? Will his career full of concussions make any attempt to evaluate him on the field moot?

Tag you're it: no offensive tackles tagged this year.

Out of the running: Ryan O'Callaghan (expected to retire), Guy Whimper (re-signed by Jagwires despite being one of the worst LTs in the league), Levi Brown (cut by Big Dead 3/13 but re-signed 3/15)

Voting present: Steve Vallos (signed by Eagles 3/19), Brandon Keith, Kareem McKenzie, D'Anthony Batiste (re-signed by Big Dead 3/21), Artis Hicks (signed by Dolphins 3/16), Oniel Cousins, (re-signed with Browns 3/15), Stephon Heyer (signed by Jets 5/29), James Lee (signed by Redskins 4/10), Paul McQuistan (re-signed by Seahawks 3/19), Daniel Loper, Mike Gibson (signed by Eagles 3/14), Marc Colombo (retired 4/24), Ray Willis (cut by Seahawks 6/30), Kirk Chambers

The doctor will see you now: Stacy Andrews (pulmonary embolism), King Dunlap (concussions, re-signed by Eagles 3/30), Scott Kooistra (neck/spinal surgery), Max Starks (torn ACL), Tony Pashos (ruptured tendon in foot, released by Browns 3/13), Marcus McNeill (possibly chronic neck and knee problems, released by Chargers 3/13), Chad Clifton (cut by Packers 4/24, back surgery last season, may retire)

Gawd no: Barry Richardson, one of the worst RTs in the league (signed by RAMS, 5/15); Mark LeVoir, never figured out what he was doing in the NFL in the first place

RamView’s moves: The Rams were awful at the tackles last season. Rodger Saffold proved unable to pass-protect when his QB takes more than a 3-step drop. Jason Smith delivered nothing close to the hoped-for output of a top draft pick before his season ended due to a concussion. That has been a serious problem for Smith, and I highly expect his next concussion will be his last. The only saving grace for the Rams was the decision to kick Harvey Dahl outside late in the season with injuries piling up. For the short amount of time he played, he graded out as the best RT in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. RamView believes the Rams need to take a good, hard look at leaving Dahl on the outside next season. Saffold showed consistent play his rookie season; I will try to leave him at LT. I have little faith Smith can even stay on the field and would prefer to cut him, though that does not help the Rams much with this year's salary cap. $10-11 million is a hell of a lot to pay a backup tackle, but that could well end up being the Rams' move. Smith's upside, if he has any left, would probably make him the preferred third tackle to Adam Goldberg, who the Rams haven't shown much interest in re-signing. The same is, logically, true for the awful Mark LeVoir. And practice-squad rookie Kevin Hughes was in farther over his head at tackle than Peter Dinklage at the NBA All-Star Game. With former offensive line coach Paul Boudreau back, I'd be happy to draft a tackle prospect on day 3 and see what he can make out of him.

So I'm saying start Dahl at RT, Saffold at LT, probably use Smith as the world's most expensive first man off the bench, and see if you can grab a guy later in the draft like Mitchell Schwartz (Cal) or Ryan Miller (Colorado).

Shoot the moon: About the same thing I suggested in this space last year. Admit the old regime blew it in 2009 and spent a #2 pick overall on a guard. Especially if the Rams aren't able to unload the #2 pick, move Jason Smith inside and draft Matt Kalil.

Prediction: I think Boudreau's being counted on heavily to salvage Saffold and Smith. I believe they'll enter 2012 as the starters. Cross your fingers that an acorn doesn't hit Smith in the head next time he walks under a tree. With Dahl and probable returning lineman Jacob Bell able to fill in at tackle in a pinch, they'll add a late-round pick into the mix and go with that.


OK, I am so brutally behind at this point, I'm just going to put up rankings for the rest of the free agency posts and flesh them out when time allows. I'll apologize now for any potential shoddiness.

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