Top 10 offensive line free agents
With the offseason underway for all but the final two teams, we are beginning to look ahead to free agency. Emphasis on offensive line performance has grown the last few years, particularly in pass protection as the league continues to evolve into a pass-heavy league and college players continue to run spread-heavy offenses. We are taking into account more than just each player’s 2015 grade, but also previous seasons, age, skill-sets, among other aspects, to give you the top 10 free agent offensive linemen of 2016.
To see every 2016 free agent, be sure to check out PFF’s free agency tracker.
(Editor’s note: Each players’ overall season grade for only 2015 is noted next to his name; grades fall within PFF’s new 1–100 scale.)
1. Cordy Glenn, OT (85.0)
2015 team: Buffalo Bills
Cordy Glenn is not a name that gets mentioned when discussing the best offensive tackles in the game, but he has had four solid years as a starter and has been the only consistent Bills’ offensive linemen over that span. Outside of a poor performance in Buffalo’s season finale against the Jets, Glenn had the best season of his short career. He graded as the ninth-best tackle in the league, and seventh in pass protection, where he allowed just two sacks and two hits all season.
2. Kelechi Osemele, G/OT (79.6)
2015 team: Baltimore Ravens
In his first full and healthy season at guard in 2014, Osemele had a breakout year that put him among the best left guards in the league. His strength is in the run game, but that doesn’t diminish his success as a pass protector. Over the past two regular seasons, Osemele has had just two below average games as a pass blocker—one of which came while playing tackle—and he’s averaged fewer than one pressure allowed per game when at guard. And while Osemele is best-suited to play guard, he offers proven positional versatility that none of the other top offensive line free agents can provide by being capable of playing either tackle position if needed.
3. Kelvin Beachum, OT (79.4)
2015 team: Pittsburgh Steelers
If not for his torn ACL, Beachum might have been even higher on this list. The former seventh-round pick was the fifth-highest graded tackle in 2014. He allowed just 19 total pressures on 687 snaps in pass protection, and his pass blocking efficiency of 97.5 ranked third among tackles that season. He was a bit more up and down during his brief stint in 2015, but still earned a good pass-blocking grade and an average run-block grade. The ACL injury is a concern, but his upside when healthy is as good as any of the free agents, and he’s still just 27 years old.
4. Mitchell Schwartz, OT (86.6)
2015 team: Cleveland Browns
Schwartz may have been snubbed from Sunday’s Pro Bowl, but he played well enough to earn our second-team All-Pro spot at right tackle. Although he did allow 43 total pressures this season, he also was tied for the most snaps in pass protection with a whopping 705; by comparison, only 15 tackles had more than 600 pass-block snaps. Schwartz has earned a positive overall grade in all four seasons, and is coming off the best season of his career. In addition, Schwartz has not missed a single snap out of 4,427 over his four years in the league.
5. Donald Penn, OT (84.6)
2015 team: Oakland Raiders
Since signing with the Raiders two years ago, Donald Penn has continued to be a reliable left tackle. In fact, he has had a top-10 overall grade in each of the last two seasons, which were also two of his best three years in protection. He has earned a positive run block grade in every season of the PFF era (since 2007). In a league that has a dire need of good pass protectors, a veteran like Penn should be valued.
6. Richie Incognito, G (90.0)
2015 team: Buffalo Bills
Prior to Incognito’s suspension in 2013, he had earned positive grades in both run and pass blocking for six consecutive seasons. Despite being out of the league in 2014, he returned to the field and had the best season of his career. His +35.0 overall grade was second behind only Marshal Yanda among guards, and he played every offensive snap for the first time in his career. At 33 years old, Incognito is probably not a long-term solution at this point, but he could still help shore up the interior offensive line for many teams.
7. Evan Mathis, G (89.6)
2015 team: Denver Broncos
Mathis is not the elite player he was a couple years ago, but even with a new team and injuries to start the season, he once again earned the highest run-blocking grade among guards. He arguably had his worst season in pass protection, but he still allowed just 19 pressures during the regular season and ranked 19th out of 82 guards in pass-blocking efficiency. Despite being the oldest player on this list, Mathis could be a great option for a team looking for a short-term solution in a heavy zone-blocking run scheme.
8. Ryan Schraeder, OT (87.0)
2015 team: Atlanta Falcons
Schraeder got significant playing time for Atlanta in 2014, and as much as the offensive line struggled to stay healthy, he showed some promise at right tackle, particularly as a pass blocker. He built upon that success this season to finish with the second-highest overall grade at right tackle after Schwartz. He had just two negatively-graded games in pass protection, with one coming against Houston, where he surrendered (only) one sack and two hurries to J.J. Watt. His 97.2 pass-blocking efficiency this season was second among tackles only to perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas. One downside for teams courting Schraeder is that he is the lone restricted free agent among the top offensive linemen, so it may take more to pry him away from Atlanta than most of the other options.
9. Brandon Brooks, G (66.7)
2015 team: Houston Texans
Brooks’ performance slipped a bit this year, but prior to it, he was a top-10 guard in his first two seasons as a starter. He has done well in a zone-blocking scheme in Houston, and had the fifth and third-best run block grades in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Brooks has allowed three sacks in as many years as a starter, and is coming off his best season in pass protection, with a +8.3 cumulative pass blocking grade. Brooks would be a good option for a team looking for a younger guard that could be a long term option, particularly one running a lot of outside zone, but does not want to shell out as much money that Osemele is likely to command on the open market.
10. Stefen Wisniewski, C (72.5)
2015 team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Wisniewski is going to hit free agency for the second year in a row after signing a one-year contract with the Jaguars last spring. He performed better than his last season in Oakland, but this year was still a bit below his best years in 2012 and 2013. Pass protection is his strength, and he’s graded positively in four of his five seasons as a pro. Wisniewski is not an elite center, but he is one of just 13 centers who had an above-average overall grade in 2015 out of 40 qualifying players. Wisniewski has also been extremely reliable throughout his career, missing just 19 snaps over five years.