This year's market for offensive linemen is one of the best we've seen in some time. In addition to top-flight starters such as Alex Mack and Branden Albert, there's starting-caliber talent to be had at every position along the line. Teams in need of starters, backups or just extra bodies in general can get what they need so long as they have the cash.
Players like the aforementioned Albert and Mack should be highly sought-after and will likely receive significant contracts. Those players also come with a truckload of rumors about which teams may or may not be interested in acquiring their services. Below, we'll take a look at some of the bigger names and the more prevalent news surrounding them near the start of the new league year:
It's been reported on plenty at this point, but Albert sounds like he's a shoe-in to sign with the Miami Dolphins. It's unclear what kind of money he'll be making, but somewhere close to $10 million per season sounds about right. In fact, CBS Sports reported on Monday that it does come in at $10 million per season. He's a top-flight left tackle and it's unsurprising that a team seems to have been able to secure his services so early on in the process.
To this point, there's been little else to report regarding Albert. The Kansas City Chiefs want him back, and there's plenty of teams that would be interested, but it sounds like the Dolphins got in there and wrapped up this negotiation before it could even begin with other teams.
Mack is one of the best centers in the league and the fact that he's hitting the open market, even as a player signed to the transition tag, is a big deal. If he's not the best offensive lineman hitting the market this season, it's only because left tackle is such a premium position. To this point, much of the news surrounding Mack has involved the team he's spent his career with thus far: the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland considers Mack a priority and want to get him signed to a long-term deal, but Mack has always intended to test the open market to determine his value. Unfortunately for Mack, the team used the transition tag on him. That didn't stop Mack's agents from claiming that they can structure a deal with another team that the Browns would be unable to match.
For what it's worth, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport suggested that the Baltimore Ravens are considering Mack in the event that they do not get left tackle Eugene Monroe to agree to a deal. Is it just posturing, given that the two play different positions, or is the offensive line in Baltimore in just that bad a shape, as noted by Behind The Steel Curtain?
Monroe is one of the top tackles this year, in a market that's stacked at the position. He's just behind Albert and likely ahead of other names such as Jared Veldheer and Rodger Saffold. The most prominent rumors surrounding Monroe pertain to him remaining with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have a pretty poor offensive line at this point, but Monroe is a bright spot and Baltimore would like to lock him down as the franchise left tackle of the future. We've gone from him being "likely to leave" to him being "very close" to a new contract, as noted by NFL.com. An update to that post suggests that Monroe has a "few" offers from other teams, but that he'd prefer to remain in Baltimore if the Ravens increase their offer.
One of three free agent offensive linemen from the Chiefs, Asamoah is one of the top guard prospects available. That is to say, he's one of the top guard prospects that should hit the open market when the new league year begins, but there are already reports that he's already spoken for. John Middlekauff of 95.7 The Game reports that the Falcons have signed Asamoah to a multi-year contract. It's unclear how long the deal would be for, but it's reported at $4.5 million per year.
The third and final free agent offensive lineman from the Chiefs, Schwartz is right about on the same level as Asamoah. The Chiefs couldn't quite decide who was the better guard when the two were playing together, but both are expected to get solid deals and an opportunity to start next season. Thus far, Schwartz has been linked to the New York Giants and two other teams, according to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger.
The most significant piece of news thus far is that Schwartz "will not return to KC," as reported by Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star. The folks over at Arrowhead Pride aren't exactly excited about the developments and the possibility of losing Albert, Asamoah and Schwartz.
Dietrich-Smith is another starting-caliber center set to hit the market. Aaron Rodgers wants him to return to the Green Bay Packers, but given that he'll be the second- or third-best center on the market, Dietrich-Smith likely wants to see what he can get. The New York Giants are the most prominent link at this point, with the New York Daily News suggesting that he is their top target and that they intend to "make a big play." Over at Acme Packing Company, they're already looking at the possibility of losing Dietrich-Smith.
Brian De La Puente
De La Puente is the third starting-caliber center, and once again, the New York Giants are the one with the most interest, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. No other teams have been prominently linked to De La Puente, who is about as good as Dietrich-Smith and would be a clear upgrade for the Giants. The New Orleans Saints found De La Puente on the practice squad of the San Francisco 49ers, and developed him into one of the better centers in the league. The Saints would also like to bring him back, which they would have a much better shot at doing if the Giants land Dietrich-Smith.
It's unclear where Beadles, a guard, will end up, but it doesn't sound like he'll be returning to the Denver Broncos. A four-year starter, Beadles seems as though he's narrowed his decision down to two teams: the Jacksonville Jaguars, and one other team, according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post. Beadles has started 67 of 69 games since entering the NFL and would be a big get for the Jaguars or the mystery team, and he's definitely a big loss for the Broncos. Denver has too much money invested into its offensive line already, and Beadles should be paid like a top-flight guard.
Saffold is one of the more versatile players at this point. He's billed as an offensive tackle, but struggled there last season. When he switched to guard, he played as well as anyone in the league and where he ends up is just one half of the equation -- what position he'll play is another. The St. Louis Rams would like to have Saffold back, as noted by Turf Show Times, but it sounds as though he's going to be elsewhere in 2014. The team most prominently linked to Saffold: the Oakland Raiders.
Veldheer is another starting left tackle, though he's not quite up there with Albert or Monroe. Still, he's going to command a big contract from whatever team is interested. The Raiders want him back, but the most prominent link at this point has been the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals have been trying to improve their offensive line for several seasons now, and Veldheer would be a huge get for them. Reports thus far have suggested between $7 million and $7.5 million per year for Veldheer, as noted by Revenge of The Birds.
At this point, there's very little information on where Oher might end up. It sounds as though his time with the Baltimore Ravens is up, though nothing has been reported on him in recent days. Back on March 3, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reported that the Ravens had not yet begun contract talks with Oher, and would not, given that they are concentrating on Monroe.