Donald Penn tops the list of free agent offensive tackles
The Super Bowl was a prime example of how important offensive tackle performance can be, particularly in pass protection. Many teams could use an upgrade at one of their tackle spots, and there are a few good options for teams to target as starters this year.
Below are PFF’s top offensive tackle free agents entering the NFL offseason.
(Editor’s note: This list was updated on March 2, 2016, removing Bills LT Cordy Glenn, previously in the No. 1 spot.)
1. Donald Penn
2015 team: Oakland Raiders
The 33-year-old veteran would probably only be a short-term solution, but he is a solid option. He has earned positive run-blocking grades in all nine seasons of the PFF era. Penn is also coming off arguably his best two pass-blocking seasons as a pro, with a pass blocking efficiency above 95.0 in both years. Penn has also been extremely reliable when it comes to his health; he’s missed just 52 total offensive snaps out of nearly 8,500 over the past eight seasons.
2. Kelvin Beachum
2015 team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Beachum was one of the best pass-blocking tackles in 2014, with a third-best 97.5 pass blocking efficiency. Unfortunately, an ACL injury cut his 2015 campaign short before he could continue to build on the previous year’s success. After a rocky opening weekend against the Patriots where Beachum allowed four pressures, he allowed just two pressures over the next five games before being injured this season. He’s been average as a run blocker so far in his career, but with pass protection at a premium nowadays, his pass-blocking grades and ceiling are quite valuable.
3. Mitchell Schwartz
2015 team: Cleveland Browns
Schwartz has been criticized by some for allowing so many pressures this season (43, to be exact), but rarely does it get mentioned that his 705 snaps in pass protection were tied for the most in the league. On a per-snap basis, Schwartz’s 95.3 pass-blocking efficiency ranked 27th out of 75 qualifying tackles. He has earned positive pass-blocking grades each of his four years in the league, and three of four years as a run blocker. Schwartz has also not missed a single one of the Browns’ 4,427 offensive snaps since he was drafted.
4. Russell Okung
2015 team: Seattle Seahawks
There was a time when Okung was close to being a top-10 tackle in the league, but it has been three years since his peak in 2012. He was a good run-blocker early in his career, but his cumulative run block grades of -7.2 and +1.0 the past two seasons have been considerably lower. He’s had just one above-average pass-blocking season in six years, but the Seahawks’ comparatively run-heavy offense has lessened that exposure. All that said, he has shown his potential in the past, and has put together small stretches of good play since then. If he can stay healthy, it’s certainly possible that he could reach that level again.
5. Andre Smith, Jr.
2015 team: Cincinnati Bengals
Smith had the worst season of his career in 2015 with an overall player grade of 39.6. In his defense, the Bengal has dealt with multiple injuries and concussions over the last two years, both of which could be significant contributors to his worst two seasons out of his five years as a starter. In 2012, he was our highest-graded right tackle in the league, with one of the better run-blocking grades that season. Similar to Okung, it’s possible that he can regain that form, but the uncertainty might be the difference between a short- and long-term contract.
6. Bobby Massie
2015 team: Arizona Cardinals
It’s tough to know what to expect from Bobby Massie. He was one of the worst pass-blocking tackles back in 2012, but he improved quite a bit after being given another chance in 2014. However, he couldn’t sustain the improvement last season. He regressed in pass protection, with particularly poor outings against the Seahawks’ and Rams’ good defensive lines. As for the run game, Massie has been a decent run-blocker in his three seasons as a starter. You won’t be sure which player you are getting by signing Massie, but at the least he could be a viable sixth offensive lineman.