Free-agent tackles could have a hard time getting paid

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When assessing the value of a looming free agent, one of the most overlooked factors is a team’s ability to replace him.

For teams faced with the possibility of losing a tackle to free agency, this year it’ll be pretty easy to fill the position.

There’s a glut of free-agent tackles due to hit the market, and tackle is regarded as one of the deepest talent pools in this year’s draft.  So if the Dolphins opt not to pay Jake Long $15 million under the franchise tag or to give him a long-term deal with the franchise number serving as the starting point, the Dolphins will have options.

Ditto for other teams, like the Chiefs.  Instead of spending big money to keep Branden Albert, Kansas City could simply use the first overall pick on Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, nailing down the position for at least the next five years.  Or the Chiefs could sign one of the other tackles who’ll be available on the open market — especially after the first week, when the money slows down.

In New England, if Sebastian Vollmer wants too much money, the Pats could opt to go with Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, supplementing the position with veterans who will be begging for work once the free-agent music stops playing.

This reality makes the Broncos’ reported willingness to use the franchise tag on Ryan Clady a little confusing.  It could be, however, that the Broncos are more concerned about continuity, given that there’s a narrow window within which Peyton Manning can pursue another Super Bowl win.

Still, plenty of alternatives will be available in free agency, from Demetress Bell (who was cut this week by the Eagles) to Sam Baker to Gosder Cherilus to Winston Justice to Phil Loadholt to Bryant McKinnie to Andre Smith to Jermon Bushrod to Long, Albert, and Vollmer.

The sheer numbers, coupled with the influx of rookie tackles, will make it difficult to get paid.  Long could have the best luck to get a big deal on the open market, given the sizzle that goes along with being the first pick in the 2008 draft.  Though it’s believed his play has declined in recent years, there likely will be a team both with a need and the cap room to make a splash, if/when the Dolphins decide not to tender a franchise tag reflecting a 20-percent raise over the eight-figure cap number that applied to Long in 2012.

25 responses to “Free-agent tackles could have a hard time getting paid

  1. This is true. But it will be the exceptional draft crop that kills the market for these guys much more so than other free agents, I believe. There are close to half a dozen “franchise” left tackles coming in.

  2. Disagree with your Chiefs logic- it’s like not having the #1 pick at all. Better of just keeping Albert and using the first overall pick to further improve a team that, you know, won 2 games

  3. Ryan Clady is head and shoulders above the rest of the names on that list. That’s why the Broncos would be willing to franchise him.

    Vollmer is really good as well, but he’s also a right tackle, and subsequently a lot easier to replace.

  4. Jake Long’s level of play has declined sharply over the past two years. This past season, he was not only way below his previous level of play, but he was flat out mediocre compared to the rest of the league’s starting left tackles.

  5. *Legion* says: Feb 9, 2013 4:10 PM

    “Jake Long’s level of play has declined sharply over the past two years. This past season, he was not only way below his previous level of play, but he was flat out mediocre compared to the rest of the league’s starting left tackles.”

    You have obviously never heard of J’Marcus Webb.

  6. I wouldn’t mind seeing Long get a fresh start in Chicago, but even if his price is too steep, the Bears have no excuse this off-season not to dramatically improve their o-line.

  7. I would think the GB Packers will be looking very closely at any of those Left Tackles. If there’s value, Ted Thompson will be all over it. He will not overpay as he has 2 monster deals to make with Aaron and Clay next year.

  8. Listen Florio, you can’t talk about the Eagles not keeping their QBs upright in one article, but then tout Bell as a tackle who could keep an actual NFL-caliber tackle from getting paid. Bell couldn’t keep King Dunlap or Dennis Kelly off the field, or Vick/Foles upright on the field.

  9. Any GM who gives Long a Big money contract should be terminated on the spot. The guy got beat like a drum anytime he faced someone with decent speed. He’s Tony Boseli 2.0.

  10. so does this mean the bears will be able to sign more than 1 of these guys? if they can land 3 of those guys Cutler might actually be able show what he can do if he has more than 30 seconds to do something besides run for his life while waiting for marshall to get open.

  11. Chicago will get one of these guys but the first pick in the draft will be
    used to get another O-linemen as well. Trestmen will protect Cutler both by fixing his O-line and speeding up his release of the ball. Jake Long might not be a bad pick up but dont over pay him

  12. I have a tip: they should all just go to the Arizona Cardinals. They can use anyone along the offensive line.

    Although I have read that there Space is as low as $4.7 million but can be as high as $10 million and they can always restructure to bring veterans.

    I also have to note that it was so disturbing to see the unexpected declines in place of players like bell and long. Granted those two were in different schemes and maybe they have to find the schemes best fit them.

  13. For Jake Long, NFL means Not For Long, I hope he studied when he was in school, because he will need a job very soon.

  14. We always hear how guards are less athletic guys who couldn’t cut it at tackle. Why don’t some of these free agent tackles make it known that they’re willing, even eager, to move inside? Versatility is supposed to be valuable, why not show some?

  15. Most of us Pats fans will tell you that Cannon ain’t no tackle. Not even Scar can make that happen. He’s a road grading guard.

  16. I think the price of left tackles will be going down because of the rookie wage salary cap. Long was one of the last Mega Rookie contracts for top #10 picks before the cap was instated .

    I think we are also watching the value of agile centers and guards go up.

  17. don’t bet on Andy Reid fooling around at left tackle he found out what that was like this year.

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