Free agency preview: Offensive tackle

Packers seeking depth behind Tauscher, Clifton

The Green Bay Packers are set at offensive tackle with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, but the depth can be improved. Veterans Kevin Barry and Adrian Klemm are the current backups, and both are not considered as potential NFL starters. Klemm had a chance last year to start at left guard in place of the departed Mike Wahle, but lost his job to Scott Wells. He served as Clifton's backup over the second half of the season. Barry has been a backup behind Tauscher for the past four seasons.

While it is unlikely that the Packers will sign a high-profile offensive tackle in free agency, they may select a tackle in the NFL draft, or sign one shortly after the draft.

Here's what writes about some of the tackles scheduled for free agency on March 3:

John St. Clair is an unrestricted free agent, but is expected to sign a three-year deal with the Bears before hitting the open market. He started at both left and right tackle last year and proved to be a valuable addition off the waiver wire.

Carolina Panthers OT Todd Fordham is an unrestricted free agent and there's no guarantee he will be back.

Denver Broncos LT Matt Lepsis is a free agent and replacing him would be very difficult. He has had two good seasons since making the transition from right tackle to left tackle. Cornell Green could be the successor if nobody else is found.

New England Patriots offensive tackles Tom Ashworth (who is a free agent) and Brandon Gorin are interchangeable at right tackle. Ashworth has more versatility as he excelled as a short-yardage fullback and an extra tight end over the second half of the season.

Philadelphia Eagles RT Jon Runyan, 32, is an unrestricted free agent. The Eagles would like to re-sign him, but they don't want to overpay him because of his age. He'll test the market.

Detroit Lions LT Jeff Backus continued to play with iron man willpower but struggled, especially early in the season, then turned it up a notch playing on a badly sprained ankle. Backus' contract is up, but he has indicated he will delay any free agent decision until he is able to talk with the new coach.

Atlanta Falcons LT Kevin Shaffer probably will find a suitable market for his services, particularly because this class of unrestricted free agents is low on tackles. His days with the Falcons are likely over. His defining play was allowing Simeon Rice to sack Matt Schaub, causing a fumble for a Buccaneers touchdown in Week 11 at the Georgia Dome.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Kenyatta Walker, arguably the Bucs' best lineman, is an unrestricted free agent and is not likely to return, given his tumultuous relationship with coach Jon Gruden. Bucs tackle Chris Colmer could take over next season for Walker, and the Bucs will look to free agency for improvements.

Miami Dolphins T Stockar McDougle was a disappointment as a free-agent acquisition and probably won't be re-signed.

Cleveland Browns LT L.J. Shelton played well after a shaky start. Re-signing him before he becomes a free agent in March is a priority, but the Browns won't break the bank to keep him.

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