NFL Offensive Tackle Market Could Quietly Be Stronger Than Ever This Offseason

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 9, 2020

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2018, file photo, Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams is shown on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Tampa, Fla. Williams did not report to training camp Thursday, July 25, 2019, amid a contract dispute. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The quarterback carousel is expected to spin so wildly this NFL offseason that it's pretty much all anyone's talking about.

"Tom did what at a college basketball game?"

"Bruce said what about Jameis?"

"Teddy is reportedly set to make what on the open market?"

Those are just select quotes from my cat, which is ridiculous because he's not even an NFL fan.

But while the football world is focused on where several key players at the game's most important position might land, a fascinating and deep market has emerged for those who protect said key players.

In fact, offensive tackle might be the game's second-most important position, which would explain why respected veterans so rarely hit free agency.

How many standout tackles have reached the open market in the last decade? Branden Albert in 2014, Andrew Whitworth in 2017, maybe Andre Smith in 2013, Nate Solder in 2018 and Trent Brown and Ja'Wuan James in 2019. Usually, it's one or two per year, at best, and we're rarely talking about difference-making tackles moving teams in March.

This offseason is shaping up very differently:

  • The Philadelphia Eagles announced last week the team and veteran left tackle Jason Peters have "mutually agreed" that Peters will become a free agent.
  • The Washington Redskins have granted disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams permission to peruse the trade market, according to ESPN's Dianna Russini.
  • A Tennessee Titans source told ESPN's Matthew Berry at the combine that he expects the team to tag running back Derrick Henry. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill also on track to hit free agency, that likely leaves steady 25-year-old right tackle Jack Conklin available for poachers. 
  • Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead recently stated on the Rams Revealed podcast that his cap-strapped team is unlikely to use the franchise tag, which could mean that Whitworth will become available in free agency.
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Jason Peters
Jason PetersMatt Rourke/Associated Press/Associated Press

Those four vets have been to a combined 20 Pro Bowls and earned a combined five first-team All-Pro nods. Peters and Whitworth are 38, but both remained quality starters in 2019. Williams is coming off a lost season because of a holdout, but the 31-year-old was a Pro Bowler in each of his previous seven campaigns. Conklin is less decorated, but he was an All-Pro as a rookie a few years ago and was Pro Football Focus' sixth-highest-graded right tackle despite coming off a torn ACL.

But that's not all! This class is deep too:

  • Reliable 10-year Green Bay Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga is about to hit the market at age 30. 
  • Longtime New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers starter Kelvin Beachum is scheduled to become a free agent. He's also 30. 
  • Versatile 27-year-old Daryl Williams, who easily could have been a Pro Bowler in a dominant 2017 campaign but hasn't been as effective since, has an expiring contract for the Carolina Panthers. 
  • Another Eagle, the versatile Halapoulivaati Vaitai, is expected to land a starting job as a high-trajectory 26-year-old. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that Big V could make between $8 million and $12 million per year on a new contract.
  • With 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams waiting in the wings, the Cincinnati Bengals are prepared to move on from veteran left tackle Cordy Glenn, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN.
  • Stalwart Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo's contract is also set to expire next week, although it doesn't appear the cap-rich Colts will let him play elsewhere.

Bryan Bulaga
Bryan BulagaFrederick Breedon/Getty Images

There's little chance all 10 of those guys become available, but if even three or four were to reach that point, it'd be great news for teams that are either looking for a final puzzle piece or hoping to add experience in support of a young quarterback as they rebuild.

The Miami Dolphins, who, according to Spotrac, lead the NFL in projected salary-cap space, would probably love to give their new young quarterback (whoever that is) a protector like Conklin, who has a lot of productive years ahead of him.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns, who have the talent to compete right now but lack options at left tackle, have the money and the clout to take a late-career flier on Whitworth or Peters. Neither should be expected to last more than another year or two, but that's all Cleveland needs. Peters still earned the sixth-best PFF grade at his position in 2019, while Whitworth was a top-10 pass-blocker at the same outlet. The Browns could also try to trade for Williams, who likely has more tread on his tires than the other two vets.

Bulaga, Beachum and Glenn would be intriguing and proven consolation prizes for anybody in win-now mode. In addition to the Browns, you'd think the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle Seahawks would be in that market.

Jack Conklin
Jack ConklinBrett Carlsen/Getty Images

Conklin, Williams and Vaitai are a lot younger, so their markets would probably be larger. In addition to the teams above, you'd think the Redskins, Jets and New York Giants would be interested.

The group might not be as star-studded as the QBs, but it's loaded with high-quality horses.

Don't be surprised if its movement has a massive impact on the 2020 NFL season.

             

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don't. It's entirely your choice.

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