2015 Top Free Agents: Offensive Tackles
You’ve surely had a flip through the PFF Free Agent Tracker by this point, so this set of articles will build nicely on what you’ve already seen. This, our yearly effort to sort the top free agent options at each position, will present a position a day and offer a Top-10 of what’s available.
It’s more than just looking at our grades, but factoring in longevity, age, injuries and so much more in order to tell you who we think are the best gets out there.
Today we take a look at several of the top free agent tackles available. There is a good range of age, experience, and run/pass blocking efficiency depending on what teams are looking for.
Bryan Bulaga (RT) – Re-signed with Green Bay
2014 Grade: +12.7
2014 Snaps: 1091
Bulaga easily tops the list here not only because of his best overall grade in this group, but also what he offers. He has played his entire career in Green Bay and is much improved since his rookie year. Even though he struggled in Week 8’s Sunday Night Football feature allowing six QB hurries against the Saints, he had a strong final 10 games of the 2014 season with his lowest game grade coming in only at -0.2. Even with his Week 8 outlier, his +13.2 pass block grade was second-best among right tackles. Bulaga is only 25 and has played over 88% of the snaps each year (excluding 2013). The combination of Bulaga’s youth, durability, and experience puts him in a great position to cash in on a handsome long-term deal.
Michael Roos (LT) – RETIRED
2014 Grade: +4.6
2014 Snaps: 300
One of the oldest free agents out there, Michael Roos started the first five games for the Titans before a season-ending knee injury. In only five games, had had a respectable +4.6 overall grade and was in the green for both pass and run blocking. From 2012-2013, he earned a cumulative +16.8 pass and +17.5 run blocking grades. Drafted by the Titans back in 2005, no matter who the quarterback was, Roos was there protecting the blindside. Rumors of his retirement swirl this offseason, but it is possible Roos could be persuaded to come back for one more year. Even though the Titans have their left tackle of the future in Taylor Lewan, it would be a great gesture to keep Roos rewarding him for his service to the franchise.
King Dunlap (LT) – Re-signed with San Diego
2014 Grade: +6.8
2014 Snaps: 1080
Unlike the shuffling Chargers’ center position, Dunlap anchored Philip Rivers’ blindside for a second straight season. In his two years with the Chargers, he’s played 94.6% of the LT snaps, grading at +24.4 overall. In this same time span, there is a wide separation between pass and run blocking performance. On pass plays he has allowed 56 hurries on 1,078 passing plays (5% hurry rate). Yet when asked to run block, he has a +23.8 run block grade. Perhaps his 6-foot-9 frame compounded with his age are starting to catch up, but it is tough for teams to disregard both his sheer size and his run blocking proficiency.
Orlando Franklin (RT) – Signed with San Diego
2014 Grade (LG): +15.4
2014 Snaps (LG): 1195
Franklin showed flexibility this season, moving from his traditional right tackle position to left guard. The drastic move hardly made a dent in his overall grading between 2013 and 2014, decreasing from +16.4 to only +15.4. He played 96.9% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps, allowed only 11 total pressures, and excelled in both pass (+9.0) and run blocking (+9.8). Regardless of O-line position, in each of the last three seasons Franklin has finished in the Top 7 in Pass Block Efficiency (PBE). His only drawback is his penchant for committing penalties. Franklin’s stamina and versatility makes him an attractive free agent.
Doug Free (RT) – Re-signed with Dallas
2014 Grade: +8.5
2014 Snaps: 716
Free is one of the older free agents at 31 years of age. He has spent his entire career with Dallas and after a down 2012 season, amassed a cumulative +21.6 overall grade in 27 games. His 17 QB hurries allowed was middle of the road this year while his +5.6 run block grade was fourth-best for RTs. The Cowboys have a decision to make between veteran and youth and as we’ll see with the next player, Free might draw the short stick. Desperate teams looking for a one to two-year band-aid at RT are certainly aware of the situation and might have to pay a premium to lure Free to their franchise.
Derek Newton (RT) – Re-signed with Houston
2014 Grade: +8.9
2014 Snaps: 1130
Newton hardly played his rookie season in 2011 and has shown steady improvement in the past three years with the Texans. While he started all the games in the 2013 season, he only finished four (Weeks 1-4). His 2013 overall grade of -28.3 comprised of a -21.5 pass block and -6.7 run block grade in only 74.2% total snaps played. Newton turned things around this past season, boosting his overall grade up to +8.9… and that even includes two games where he combined for -14.2! Newton’s +13.4 run block grade was fourth-best for RTs yet his 36 QB hurries was fourth-worst. Lastly, he played the most snaps for right tackles who did not make the playoffs. Run-based teams searching for a serviceable RT probably have Newton’s name near the top of their FA list.
Jeremy Parnell (RT) – Signed with Jacksonville
2014 Grade: +8.7
2014 Snaps: 507
Parnell is the second of Dallas’ two free agent RTs with the kicker being his age. Parnell is not only three years Free’s junior, but was also a third of a cap hit in the 2014 season. He was only one of three RTs to finish this season with both green pass and run block grades. Parnell allowed only 12 QB pressures, none of which went for sacks (should be noted that he did play 100 fewer snaps than Free). A possible hint to which direction Dallas is most likely going is that Parnell started the final four games this season. Jerry Jones has never been one to shy away from spending, but not many teams have the luxury of choosing between two starting RTs.
Joe Barksdale (RT)
2014 Grade: -5.9
2014 Snaps: 1031
Like Dunlap, the Rams RT exhibited the same dichotomy between pass and run blocking responsibilities. His 40 QB hurries was next to worst for RTs yet had the third-best run blocking grade at +5.6. Barksdale allowed 51 total QB pressures good a 92.9 PBE (68th of 76) and last among all NFC West tackles. An on-and-off starter in 2013, fatigue might have been an issue this season—he allowed 13 QB hurries in the final four weeks. Barksdale is only 27 and has shown the capability to put together good stretches of games. Unless incoming Rams offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti thinks he harness the good in Barskdale, a change of scenery might serve the young right tackle well.
Ryan Harris (RT)
2014 Grade: -1.6
2014 Snaps: 980
Harris graded out average in his years with the Texans but was erratic in the 2014 season with the Chiefs. He did not have two consecutive “green” games in a row, fluctuating anywhere between –4.2 to +3.6. A big positive for Harris is his lack of committing penalties. Last season, he only had three called on him and before that, four in two years in Houston. Harris won’t command elite tackle money, but most teams would welcome a disciplined, durable player on the right side.
Eric Winston (RT) – Re-signed with Cincinnati
2014 Grade: -6.3
2014 Snaps: 242
Winston played for the Bengals this season, his third team in as many years (previously with the Chiefs then Cardinals). The 31 year old started the last final games for the Bengals and got progressively worse, bottoming out in the Wild Card game with a -7.0 overall grade. He appeared in only five games, yet all ten of his QB hurries came in his final two starts. This season, only three tackles who played over 125+ snaps had a lower PBE than him. While his numbers look bleak, teams might default to Winston purely due to experience.