Some teams like to spend big in free agency, while others either can't or want to approach things cautiously, but just about everyone is looking for offensive line help at the beginning of the new league year. A solid offensive line is one of the most important aspects of a successful football team and ideally, a winning football team will have at least two capable backups to cover the interior and outside.
When free agency begins in March, some teams will be looking for starters and others will be looking for backups, but most able-bodied, quality offensive linemen will find a home for the 2014-15 season. This year, there's no shortage of quality talent, with a few big names in particular worth keeping an eye on.
Below, we take a look at some of the top names set to hit the market:
1. Branden Albert (Kansas City Chiefs)
Albert played on the franchise tag this past season for the Kansas City Chiefs and was exceptional, earning his first Pro Bowl berth. The former 2009 first-round draft pick out of Virginia is excellent in both the pass and run game, but will likely be looking for a new home with the Chiefs in a tough cap position. Albert, 29, will likely be asking for something around $9-10 million per year, and he'll probably get it as the top offensive tackle on the market.
2. Jared Veldheer (Oakland Raiders)
The Oakland Raiders don't have a ton of great players on the roster right now, but Veldheer is definitely one of them. Considering the Raiders finally have a boatload of cap space, it would be a shock if they don't lock him up. The 26-year-old left tackle was limited to only five games last season due to a triceps tear, but should recover completely and. At 6'8, 325 pounds, Veldheer is a monster of a man and will command a healthy salary, which, again, the Raiders can afford.
3. Jordan Gross (Carolina Panthers)
Gross is one of the best technicians in the NFL today, and has enjoyed a terrific career with the Carolina Panthers. Gross will have a market for his services, although getting a long-term deal could be tricky considering he's 33 years old. That said, his play has been excellent. He graded out as the third-best offensive tackle int he NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Carolina does have other priorities coming up, including big contracts for quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly, so Gross may end up elsewhere in 2014.
4. Alex Mack (Cleveland Browns)
Mack is one of the best offensive linemen in football, and arguably the best center in the league. He finds himself fourth on this list because of his position and the fact that he will likely return to Cleveland either voluntarily (long-term deal) or kicking and screaming (franchise tag). Mack was a Pro Bowl selection for the second time in his career last season, and a second-team All-Pro. Cleveland would be making a big mistake to pass up on him.
5. Anthony Collins (Cincinnati Bengals)
Collins stepped to the fore with the Cincinnati Bengals this season, taking over the left tackle spot when Andrew Whitworth was kicked inside to left guard. Collins was an adequate run blocker, but tremendous in pass protection, keeping Andy Dalton clean on almost every snap. Collins ranked 16th among all offensive tackles in pass protection, according to PFF. At only 28 years old, he has considerable upside.
6. Zach Strief (New Orleans Saints)
The New Orleans Saints have one of the most dynamic offenses in football, and it starts up front. One of their pillars is Strief, who dominated at right tackle last season. Because he is a right tackle, the 30-year-old won't command top dollar, making him a potentially beautiful fit for a team looking to fill a need and not break the bank. New Orleans is cash-strapped, so it would be a surprise if he returned.
7. Eugene Monroe (Baltimore Ravens)
Monroe hits the market for the first time in his career, although he should be used to change at this point. Monroe was a former first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was shipped to Baltimore this past season for a late-round pick. Monroe quietly put together a nice campaign for the Ravens, starting 11 games at left tackle. He's very solid in pass protection and given his upside, could end up with more money than what would typically be given to someone with his film.
8. Geoff Schwartz (Kansas City Chiefs)
Schwartz came out of the abyss to be a key contributor for Kansas City this season. He was signed for depth on a one-year deal, then emerged as the starting right guard, beating out third-year pro Jon Asamoah. Schwartz has already said he wants a multi-year deal, and is expected to get one in Kansas City. If he does leave, expect multiple offers for a man who can play capably at just about every position up front.
9. Zane Beadles (Denver Broncos)
The Denver Broncos have several starters hitting free agency this offseason, including Beadles. With Peyton Manning, the Broncos will be competitive no matter who they lose, but Beadles would be a blow. He started all 16 games at left guard, and while he wasn't exceptional, he was certainly solid. If Beadles walks, Denver will be left with a hole next to Ryan Clady without much money under the cap.
10. Michael Oher (Baltimore Ravens)
Oher is hitting the free agent market for the first time and appears poised to take his talents elsewhere. Oher played right tackle last season for the Ravens, and frankly had a bad season. The Ole Miss product is a decent pass blocker but struggles mightily in the run game. Of 76 tackles ranked by PFF, Oher finished dead last in run blocking. He'll find a new team for certain, but they won't break the bank to get him.
Other notable names:
Brian de la Puente
After bouncing around several practice squads, de la Puente found a home in New Orleans, starting at center for 44 of the Saints' last 45 games. Starting centers don't often hit free agency, and if Mack is franchised by Cleveland, de la Puente could be the top free agent center on the market.
McQuistan started 14 games during the regular season for Seattle. He played mostly at left guard in a rotation with James Carpenter and Michael Bowie. He filled in at left tackle due to injury and struggled mightily. Teams in need of guard depth could be interested in the nine-year veteran.
The 25-year-old Saffold has experience across the line, having started at left tackle, right tackle and guard. He played well last season, especially at right guard, but was once again limited by injuries. He is still young enough that he could command a multi-year deal for starter money.
Brown started the first 14 games of the season at left tackle, but struggled to protect Drew Brees' blindside and was benched late. He didn't play in either of the Saints' playoff games. While Brown struggled, he is still a former second-round pick and just 26 years old. A team might take a chance on him, thinking they can get more out of his talent.
Giacomini started at right tackle in Seattle and had one of his better seasons, despite dealing with an injury. Seattle's offensive line was better with Giacomini in it, but the Seahawks have a lot of pending free agents. If Giacomini hits the free agent market, he could land with a team looking for some stability at right tackle.