The Offensive Line determines fantasy productivity on both sides of the ball. Better blocking results in higher offensive numbers, while incompetent blocking will boost the IDP numbers. In this article, @itsmickyd will identify five key offensive linemen who are likely to find a new home this spring as well as five teams in desperate need of protection for their offensive assets. Which offenses will upgrade their line? Continue reading to find out the likely landing spots for some of the NFL’s unsung heroes.
The 2018 NFL season has concluded with yet another New England Patriots championship. As the Pats plan their parade, the rest of the NFL is already scoping out potential free agents and looking to shore up their offensive line in the hopes of becoming a breakout offensive powerhouse in 2019. While the glory and the fantasy implications lie with the skill positions, nothing can be done without the big men up front. Many teams will prioritize the skill positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver, but the following five teams have a hole to fill on their offensive line that could be filled by one of these free agent offensive linemen.
Teams In Need
The 2018 Cardinal’s offense was an absolute dumpster fire. The play calling was obscene and they continuously ran David Johnson up the middle rather than playing to his strength of getting into space. Both Mike Iupati and Justin Pugh were shells of their former selves at the offensive guard positions and the offensive line in Arizona finishes the year ranked 27th in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. I expect Arizona to sign both a guard and a tackle during free agency to help their offensive line in 2019 as they focus their draft on the defensive side of the ball.
If the Bills are going to keep their second year mobile quarterback healthy for the entirety of 2019, an upgrade on the offensive line is a critical roster move they have to make. Three of their five starting offensive line have expiring contracts and even so, an upgrade at both center and right guard would pay dividends for not only 2019, but for years to come as Josh Allen develops. Re-signing Jordan Mills at right tackle would be a prudent move as well. By upgrading their offensive line, the Bills will aim to rise above their 29th ranked O-line in 2019.
As Baker Mayfield aka The Second Coming of Christ prepares for his sophomore season, the Browns must protect his blindside. Left Tackle is the only spot on the offensive line the Browns really need to address so I’m putting my money on them using some of their cap space to bring in a top level veteran to give Baker and Nick Chubb the missing piece of protection. A move like this will boost the Browns’ O-line into the top ten in the league leaving their list of needs to be addressed on the defensive side of the ball.
Miami’s top two offensive linemen are Josh Sitton and Ja’Wuan James. Sitton at left guard will be entering 2019 as a 33 year old veteran while James will be demanding a big payday in free agency. While the ideal situation would involve a long term deal for James, chances are the Dolphins will need to replace their right tackle as well as their center and right guard. Getting out from under Ryan Tannehill’s contract would be a must to make a splash in free agency this year, but his $13 million of dead money could prevent that move.
Pete Carroll has a goal in mind to become a premier rushing offense. While this comes at the detriment of Russel Wilson and the passing game, the real issue is the lack of a quality offensive line. The Seahawks are losing two guards to free agency, leaving Ethan Pocic as the only remaining starting option in Seattle. Pocic has a lot of work to do to become a quality guard so Seattle should look to sign or draft two starting caliber guys for their line.
Free Agent Offensive Line
Donovan Smith, LT
Donovan Smith is the perfect free agent to fill a need at the blind side. At only 25 years old, I expect Smith to sign a four year deal somewhere to give him the opportunity for another big contract to finish out his career. Tampa Bay would be foolish to not keep Smith around, but with less than $8 million in cap space and Smith on his rookie deal and only costing $1.5 million in 2018, it will be interesting to see how they can free up space to keep Donovan around for the foreseeable future.
Rodger Saffold, LG
As the oldest guy on this list at 30 (31 during the 2019 season), I am expecting Saffold to sign with a contender that offers the most competitive contract. Being a part of the 2018 Rams has to have left an empty feeling for this veteran interior lineman so I won’t be surprised if he gives Los Angeles a home town discount for another Super Bowl run.
Matt Paradis, C
Ending a contract year with a season ending injury is less than ideal. With the center being the captain of the offensive line, Paradis can still expect some competitive offers. Barring any set backs with his injury, Paradis will make an immediate impact for his new team. A veteran center is exactly what a young quarterback needs to succeed so I am expecting any of the teams with a first or second year quarterback to make a move to bring Paradis in.
AJ Cann, RG
Another younger guy for the 2019 offensive line free agency, AJ Cann will be heavily sought after. All of the bottom ten to twelve teams on Pro Football Focus’s offensive line ranking should be sending offers to Cann as soon as free agency opens up as he will be an immediate upgrade. With only six months until his twenty-eight birthday, look for AJ to secure a four or five year deal with a large guarantee.
Ja’Wuan James, RT
At only 26 years old, James has the skill and youth to earn a long term deal. He has been playing on the right side in Miami for five years and I expect him to continue playing to his strength moving forward. James’ athleticism will boost the rushing numbers for his new team and give his quarterback more protection from the likes of JJ Watt and Von Miller on the left side of the defense.