Ranking the 2013 Free Agents: Offensive Guards and Centers
Every day this week we’ve been breaking down the top free agents at each position. 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.
We’re not going to insult your intelligence though when it comes to guys unlikely to hit the open market because of restricted free agency, so don’t expect to see names like Victor Cruz or Brian De La Puente in these pieces. Instead we’re focusing on guys with a real shot at dipping their feet into the free agent pool and making your team better.
1. Brandon Moore
2012 Grade: +21.3
2012 Snaps: 1,087
Summary: Don’t let one of the league’s most infamous fumbles, which happened to involve Moore’s buttocks, distort your view. He was one of the best interior linemen in the league and part of a New York Jets offensive line that surprisingly ranked near the top of the league. His +21.3 grade ranked fourth among guards, and, as Moore mentioned to our own Sam Monson, his goal was to finish the season on a strong note — which he did with nine straight positive grades to top off 2012.
Success is nothing new for Moore who has now posted a positive grade every year since PFF’s inception in 2008. His +12.8 run blocking grade will be attractive to any team looking to move the ball on the ground, though he’s also more than capable in pass protection. He graded at +5.6 as a pass blocker with a Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) of 97.2 that ranked 18th among all guards. Moore’s all-around game has him as our top interior lineman heading into free agency.
2. Andy Levitre – to TEN: 6-year, $46.8m
2012 Grade: +17.3
2012 Snaps: 1,039
Summary: Heading into just his fifth season in the league, Levitre should be in line to become the highest paid interior lineman in this free agent class. He’s improved greatly since being drafted in the second round in 2009 and the Buffalo Bills will have a major hole to fill if they are unwilling to pay him.
He’s certainly benefitted from playing in Buffalo’s system that relies on quick, short passes, but Levitre was our top pass protector among guards grading at +15.7 with a league-best PBE of 98.5. If there’s a complaint, he can improve his -0.7 run blocking that ranked 39th at the position. However, his ability to prevent interior pressure will make him a hot commodity on the open market.
3. Geoff Schwartz – to KC: 1-year, $1.2m
2012 Grade: +5.8
2012 Snaps: 160
Summary: We called for Schwartz to receive more playing time all season as he was stuck in a one-sided platoon with guard Brandon Fusco. Schwartz played at least 10 snaps in eight different games, though 36 was his season high and he rarely saw the field for more than a short cameo. Fusco, on the other hand, started all 16 games while posting a -11.9 overall grade including a -13.6 in pass protection. Schwartz outplayed him in all facets — he surrendered only four pressures on his 84 pass blocks, while posting a +5.1 grade on his 75 snaps as a run blocker.
Schwartz will now have a chance to find full-time work as he heads to free agency. He has more than just this season’s small sample size to work off, as his last starting gig was in 2010 when he graded at +19.3 at both right guard and right tackle for the Carolina Panthers. It’s a safe bet that Schwartz will be on the field for more than 160 snaps in 2013.
4. Donald Thomas – to IND: 4-year, $14m
2012 Grade: +10.2
2012 Snaps: 616
Summary: Thomas has shown well when called upon in a backup role with the New England Patriots the past two years, and it may be enough to garner interest around the league. His last starting job was in 2009 when he graded at +5.3 as the Miami Dolphins’ right guard.
In 2012, Thomas showed his versatility by filling in at various times throughout the season. He got the nod at right guard in Week 2, posting a +1.6 grade before getting called upon to start at left guard five times in a six game stretch where he graded at +10.9. His ability to play on either side will only increase his value and he may be in line for a starting job somewhere in 2013.
5. Fernando Velasco – back to TEN: 1 year, $2m
2012 Grade: +12.9
2012 Snaps: 1,025
Summary: The highest rated center on this list, Velasco emerged as one of the best at the position in 2012. His +12.9 overall grade ranked 12th among all centers and his 98.3 PBE tied for seventh. If there’s a caveat to Velasco’s performance it’s the five-game stretch in the middle of the season where he graded at +15.6, including +12.7 as a run blocker. Though it was an impressive run, he was otherwise below-average and any team willing to invest in him long-term may be risking the addition of an inconsistent, streaky player. Regardless, Velasco is the best center on the market and his breakout season should make him a coveted option for center-needy teams.
6. Louis Vasquez – to DEN: 4-year, $23.5m
2012 Grade: +12.8
2012 Snaps: 1,056
Summary: Vasquez was the San Diego Chargers’ best offensive lineman last year and our No. 13 ranked guard. He’s a solid pass protector and he graded at +8.6 with a PBE of 97.1 that ranked 22nd at the position. Perhaps most impressive is his ability to avoid penalties. He’s committed only one in his four-year career, and it came in his rookie season back in 2009. If there’s a knock, it’s that he hasn’t graded positively as a run blocker in two years, but for a team looking for a dependable player who won’t make many mistakes and should be above average in pass protection, Vasquez fits the bill.
7. Kevin Boothe – back to NYG: 1 year, $0.8m
2012 Grade: +9.2
2012 Snaps: 1,027
Summary: Boothe bounced back nicely from sub-par 2010 and 2011 campaigns to grade as our No. 21 guard in 2012. He’s never been top notch in pass protection, as his -1.6 grade attests, but his improvement as a run blocker will make him attractive to some teams. His +5.3 run block grade ranked 18th out of 81 qualifiers at the position. Like Vasquez, Boothe has a penalty-free streak, though it’s less impressive as it dates back to 2010. If you’re willing to look past the leaky pass protection and a 95.7 PBE that ranked 42nd among guards, Boothe’s improvement in the running game and ability to keep the laundry off the field could make for an attractive commodity.
8. Todd McClure – RETIRED
2012 Grade: +6.7
2012 Snaps: 1,059
Summary: A fixture on the Falcons’ offensive line since 2000, it is difficult to envision McClure playing center for any other team in 2013. He’s missed only four games since 2001 and he continues to play at a high level, as his +6.7 overall grade attests. In 2012, he did his usual fine work in the running game, grading at +5.7, but his declining skills as a pass blocker must be noted. His -1.3 grade ranked 26th, while his 97.5 PBE came in at 18th among the top qualifying centers. The Falcons seem like the logical spot for McClure to re-sign, but they may look to 2012 rookie Peter Konz who played center in college and struggled during his time at guard in his first season.
9. Matt Slauson – to CHI: 1 year, $0.8m
2012 Grade: +2.5
2012 Snaps: 834
Summary: Drafted in the sixth round in 2009, Slauson is one of the Jets’ few recent picks to actually overachieve his draft position. He held his own on one of the league’s top pass blocking units, and graded at +5.1 as a pass blocker after surrendering only 14 pressures on his 436 pass block attempts. However, he comes in ninth on this list due to a sub-par year in the running game that saw him grade at -4.2 for the season. Still, he’s graded in the green in all three years as a starter and he represents a respectable option the Jets would love to keep in town as he continues his development.
10. Chad Rinehart – to SD: 1-year, $1.75m
2012 Grade: +3.4
2012 Snaps: 170
Summary: Rinehart was coming off a promising 2011 campaign that saw him start 12 games and grade at +16.1, but found himself back in a swing role behind Levitre and right guard Ketih Urbik coming into 2012. When Urbik went down in Week 3, Rinehart stepped right in with more stellar play before going down for the season with an ankle injury in Week 7. He gave up only two pressures on his 97 pass blocks, while also pulling a +1.3 run block grade during his limited time. Like Levitre, Rinehart’s pass blocking numbers were helped by the Bills’ system, but he’s shown enough in his five years in the league that a starting spot may be waiting for him in free agency this offseason.
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