2012 NFL Free Agents: Ranking the Top Free Agent Offensive Linemen

Andrea HangstFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Ranking the Top Free Agent Offensive Linemen

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    With nearly half of the teams in the NFL having serious needs at offensive line, this year's free-agent class is going to be in high demand.

    Though the draft is also an excellent source of talent on the line, a veteran presence is extremely useful. Veteran linemen already have adapted to the pace of the game, know what it takes to protect quarterbacks and execute run blocking and have proven themselves at one of the most difficult positions in the game.

    Free agent offensive linemen can prove expensive, but for teams in need, price is no object.

    Here are the top four free agent linemen in 2012.

OG Ben Grubbs, Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens have the sixth-best offensive line in football, thanks to their fabulous run blocking that has allowed running back Ray Rice to have the most all-purpose yards in the league this year.

    He's been helped immeasurably by guard Ben Grubbs, who is also strong in pass protection as well.

    Grubbs, a 2007 first-round draft pick, is coming out of his final year of his rookie contract.

    Though he's had some turf toe issues this season, it shouldn't be enough to make teams wary of his durability.

    If the Ravens don't offer him a new contract quickly, he should head to any of a number of other teams who require his elite services.

OG Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints may not be able to afford to pay offensive guard Carl Nicks what he's worth in the offseason, with the team making fellow guard Jahri Evans the highest-paid player at his position in NFL history, offering him nearly $57 million over seven years.

    That may make Nicks the odd man out, but that could easily benefit another team willing to pick up the talented guard.

    The Saints have the best offensive line in the league, and it's helped quarterback Drew Brees lead the league's best passing offense as well as allowed the team to field a top-10 running unit as well.

    Nicks is extremely talented at both run blocking and pass protecting and would instantly upgrade any line he is a part of.

    Should the Saints not find the money to pay him, Nicks won't last long in the free-agent market.

G/C Chris Myers, Houston Texans

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    The Houston Texans are the No. 2 rushing offense this year, and credit certainly goes to the team's fourth-best offensive line and center Chris Myers.

    Myers, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2005 NFL draft, was traded to the Texans in 2008 and has spent most of his career with Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, one of the most brilliant running back-minded coaches in league history.

    It's no wonder, then, that Myers has had success throughout his career.

    He's also versatile, having played both guard and center at the professional level, and is almost unparalleled in his run blocking abilities among free agent offensive linemen.

    While it's not inconceivable that the Texans would let him test free agency, it's not likely.

    But if he does get a lucrative offer from another team, Myers may try his hand with a new team. If he does, that team will likely see a jump in their running backs' production in 2012.

C Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts

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    With so much change befalling the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, it's more likely that the team will be looking to part ways with a number of veterans about to hit the free-agent market.

    Longtime center Jeff Saturday may thus be one of the casualties of this rebuilding process.

    The five-time Pro Bowler has been with the Colts since 1999 and doesn't have too many years left as a starter.

    But the veteran presence and leadership he provides is both invaluable to the Colts and highly desirable for a team lacking his traits on their own line.

    Saturday is a team-oriented guy who would be willing to take a pay cut to stay with his longtime team for the remainder of his career. However, whoever the Colts bring in as general manager might just see the aging center as dead weight.

    If that's the case, he should have more than his fair share of teams inquiring about his price tag in free agency.