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Cleveland Browns: Free Agent Offensive Tackles the Team Should Target

Bill SmithAnalyst IJanuary 17, 2012

Cleveland Browns: Free Agent Offensive Tackles the Team Should Target

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    In addition to a veteran WR to help the passing game, I believe a veteran RT is critical for the protection of the QB and getting the running game going.   The team is set at LT with All-Pro Joe Thomas.

    I really like starting RT Tony Pashos.  When he is healthy, he is a solid player.  But he has a history of being injured. 

    In the last six games, he tried hard but was hampered with injuries to his legs. 

    Even so, he was much better than Jon St. Clair last year.  I am sure Jon is a great guy, but he has no business on a football field.

    Here are some of the younger OTs I would like the Browns to consider:

Potential Starters at RT

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    Jared Gaither, Chargers, 26 years old by the start of the 2012 season

    Despite his age, Gaither has played in 48 games with 33 starts.  He was a supplemental pick of
    the Ravens in 2006.

    Gaither started in his second and third years for the Ravens. but he was out all of 2010 with a back injury.  He was released by the Ravens and was picked up by the Chiefs in 2011
    but did not start any the 10 games in which he played. 

    When he was released by the Chiefs, he was picked up by the Chargers and did well starting the last five games of the season,  replacing the injured Marcus McNeill. 

    A three-team resume is always an issue with a player who has been passed around
    like bowl of taco chips.  I liked Gaither coming out of college. 

    Gaither has experience at both tackles.  He is a starting quality pass blocker but has limited athletic ability.  He is not as accomplished run blocking, but he tries hard and will give his coach his best. 

    He will get to the second level and is accurate blocking at point.  He has the strength to overcome his athletic limitations.

    Gaither might be the best candidate for the Browns in this list given his age and experience but the Chargers will try hard to keep him.  He could start from Day One for the Browns at RT.



    Anthony Collins, Bengals, 27

    Collins has played in 39 total games with 18 starts, but only two in 2011.  He is a guy that has not yet taken full advantage of his physical gifts.  He is a good athlete. 

    Part of that may be coaching.  He was a fourth-round pick in 2008. 

    Most of his starts have come replacing injured players on OT spots.  He is a good both blocking the run and the pass. 

    He has been stifled by two high picks in front of him.  He will get over his feet a little too much on blocking the pass.  He can get to the second level on the run.

    I like Collins a lot.  He has not had the best coaching but is capable of being very good.

More OT Free Agent Candidates for the Browns

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    Stephon Heyer, Raiders, 28

    Heyer has played in 61 total games with 35 starts but only two in 2011.  He was drafted by the Redskins and started most of the games in which he was healthy. 

    In 2010, he played in 12 games but only started five.  He was released after the 2010 season and was signed by the Raiders where he played in 12 games but started only two.

    I liked him a lot coming out of college.  He is too heavy and is slower than you would
    like.  He cannot pull to block on an outside run. 

    He is the best drive blocker for the run on this list.  He is a road grader who can push a DE into the OLB. 

    He has enough experience at both tackle spots to read a pass rush and despite not having great feet, he gets the job done with guile and effort. 

    He is a high-motor guy that will be solid through the final whistle.  He depends on his strength a lot and can improve his technique.

    The Skins let him go after drafting Trent Williams in the first round of 2010 and getting a bargain trade with the Saints for Jammal Brown.

    In Oakland he filled in after injuries took their toll.  He can start and should be considered by the Browns.



    Brandon Keith, Cardinals, 28

    Keith has 26 total games played with 20 starts including 11 in 2011.  He has experience at both right and left tackle.  He has physical talent but has not progressed like he should have. 

    It may be a lack of coaching, but it indicates to me that he may just be lazy as well.

    He is more of a balanced blocker equally good at protecting the passer and run blocking.  He has the speed to get outside and get to the OLB on a sweep.

    He is less physical than you would like on drive blocks but gets it done pretty well. 

    The one thing that worries me is his conditioning.  He tends to wear down during the game.  That is a conditioning issue and something that coaching can fix.

    He would be a guy with a big upside.  The Browns should consider him if they do not get any of the above.

These Will Be Lower-Cost OT Free Agent Prospects

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    Barry Richardson, Chiefs, 26

    He has played in 48 total games with 33 starts, including 16 in each of 2010 and 2011.  Richardson had a rough 2011 facing speed rushers but played much better in 2010. 

    He struggled with his conditioning and some minor injuries all of last season.

    Richardson is a run blocker first but is OK at pass blocking as well.  He has a solid base and uses leverage well.  The one thing that will challenge him is a speed rusher with an outside move. 

    He also is not going to get outside on a sweep because he does not have the foot speed. 
    But he will give you all he has the entire game. 

    With his starting experience at RT, he is the most logical target of the Browns.



    James Lee, Buccaneers, 27

    Lee has played in 19 total games with 10 starts but only 1 in 2011.

    Lee was not drafted.  He signed with the Bucs in 2008 and played in just one game. 

    After missing all of 2009 he played in 15 games in 2010 with nine starts that year.  But this season was less productive with just three games in which he was active and just one start.

    Lee is fairly athletic and is a better run blocker than pass blocker.  He has a high motor and has the feet to get outside on a sweep.  He needs to refine his technique to take full advantage of his physical ability.

    He is in the middle of this group because he has some experience and upside.   He is not as
    good as a healthy Pashos but is better than a one-legged Pashos. 

    He will likely not be re-signed by the Bucs and should be available at a reasonable price.

Dan Connolly Is My Prospect to Play RT for the Browns

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    Dan Connolly, Patriots, 30

    He has played in 46 games total starting 28 including starting 11 of the 13 games he played in 2011 at C.

    Connolly is the most versatile player on this list.  He has played C as well as T for both the
    Jags and the Pats.  The Pats liked him well enough to start him in 24 games over the last two years.

    Connolly is a balanced T with good enough feet to handle a speed rusher or pull on a run.  His
    development at T has been hurt by having taken reps at different positions. 

    He is a high motor guy with discipline.  He has the ability to take on the DT at C and keep him off the QB.  That allows the OG to get to the second level.

    The Pats will likely try hard to re-sign him but may be limited in what they can spend by Salary Cap concerns. 

    He would be at the top of the list and exactly the kind of player in which the Browns would be interested if he was three years younger.  He is my favorite prospect despite his age.



    Guy Whimper, Jaguars, 29

    Whimper has played in a total of 51 games with 16 starts, 15 of which were in 2011.  He started his career with the Giants as a fourth-round pick.  In 2010 he was signed by the Jags.

    He is adequate athletically and has experience.  He is a little better pass blocker than run
    blocker but is getting better at both. 

    He learned a lot in the 15 starts in 2011 when he filled in for Eben Britton.  Given how weak the OT position is on the Jags, the team will try hard to resign Whimper.  He is a key backup for the team. 

    Given his age and the lack of starts, the Browns would consider him only if they cannot sign any of the above.

Potential Backup Free Agent OTs

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    King Dunlap, Eagles, 27

    Dunlap played in 38 games overall, starting seven. 

    In 2011 he played in 12 games and got two starts.  He is a potential reserve for the Browns rather than a starting candidate. 

    Dunlap is limited athletically but is good at pass blocking. He is not as technically sound in the drive block.  He does not have the speed to pull and get to the second level.  He has been hurt by
    backing up at G and T and is a developmental type project. 

    There is little indication that the Eagles will try hard to keep him so he may end up being a Brown both because he will be cheap and have roots in the Eagles nest.

     


    Breno Giacomini, Seahawks, 27

    Giacomini has played in 16 total games with eight starts all in 2011.  He was on the Packers roster for 2008-09 and then was released.  He was picked up by the Seahawks but did not play in any games last year. 

    When injuries hit the Seahawks in 2011, he got all eight of his starts and did pretty well.

    He has average athleticism and is a little better at pass blocking than run blocking.  While he is
    decent now, he is in no way ready to become a starter in the league.  

    His footwork needs work on both the run and the pass.  Coaching can correct a lot of
    that.  He is a tough guy who should play better than he does.

    The Hawks have drafted first round Ts in 2010 and 2011 and have major players on D that will be free agents. 

    They might be willing to let him go.  But both LT Russell Okung and RT James Carpenter ended the season on the IR.  Given the injury history of those two, the Hawks might want to keep him.



    Paul McQuistan, Seahawks, 29

    McQuistan has played in 51 games and started 22 including 10 at LT in 2011.  He has been with the Raiders, Jags, Browns and Seahawks in his six-year career. 

    The Browns had him on the preseason roster in 2010 but he was not active in any regular season games.  In Seattle, he filled in for LT Russell Okung and did a good job. 

    He is slower than you would like and needs to refine his footwork to be able to pass block better. 
    He is better at drive blocking.  He is not a natural knee bender and needs to work on getting lower to improve his leverage on run blocks. 

    He got a lot of experience in 2011 and did well filling in.  He is a very tough guy that has an upside.

    His age is likely to cause the Browns to look elsewhere.  But McQuistan would be an
    improvement over any of the Browns reserves and should be considered.


    That is what I think.  Tell me what you think.

    Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has
    done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent.
    He edits
    http://fryingpansports.com and hosts the Internet radio version of
    News, Notes and Rumors M-Th at 6 PM EST on http://mooheadradio.com/2.0/

    He has also published several novels on
    http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/
    and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.



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