Andre Smith, Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo are among the top free agents still available. All three could step in and start for most teams. They all, however, play right tackle which has proven to be an undervalued position in free agency.
A number of offensive lineman signed lucrative contracts this offseason, but the top right tackles have struggled to find big dollar deals. Smith was the top right tackle in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus. Entering the prime of his career at 26-years-old, he was in position to sign a mega deal this offseason. Instead, he continues to wait for an offer which may never come.
Pro Football Focus ranked Winston and Clabo among the top 10 offensive tackles last season, yet both were released this offseason. At 29 and 31 years old, Winston and Clabo may be forced to take a short-term or one-year deal this offseason. This, despite the fact both would be instant upgrades for most teams.
Some of the top right tackles on the market did find deals, but they pale in comparison to what left tackles and the top guards received in free agency. Gosder Cherilus, Phil Loadholt and Sebastian Vollmer signed multi-year contracts. Combined, their deals average $5.5 million per season and included $10.3 million in guaranteed money. The top left tackles this offseason signed deals which average $7.4 million per season with $18.9 million guaranteed. The two top guards signed for an average of $6.4 million per season with $11.75 million guaranteed.
So why have right tackles struggled to find big deals this offseason? Some think the recent emphasis on passing offense has led to a shift in the value of offensive tackles. Left tackles still have the obligation of protecting a quarterbacks' blindside, but right tackles are becoming easily replaceable as teams try to get by with cheaper, younger players. The Cincinnati Bengals are flush with salary cap space, but instead of investing in Smith, Pro Football Talk reported the Bengals may instead look for a more cost effective replacement in the NFL Draft. An abundance of offensive tackle depth in the draft isn't helping matters for veterans either.
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