2014 Team: Houston Texans
2014 Stats: 16 starts at Right Tackle, 8.9 Overall Rating (-6.4 pass blocking, 13.4 run blocking)
Derek Newton was a seventh round draft pick for the Houston Texans in 2011 and won the starting job at right tackle in 2012. He started 46 out of 48 games over the past three seasons for the Texans. Newton took a significant step forward in 2014 after struggling his first two years as a starter.
Pro Football Focus gave him a much higher rating in 2014 in run blocking compared to his rating of -6.7 in 2013. Newton certainly had plenty of opportunities to run block in the Texans’ offense which finished the year first in rushing attempts (551) and fifth in rushing yards (2161). He also cut down on sacks allowed in pass blocking from six in 2013 to only two last year.
The biggest concern with Newton is that he has no experience playing right tackle, in the NFL or college. Newton is playing the best football among any of these players on this list but all his playing time has come at right tackle. Would Dave Gettleman feel comfortable giving out a large contract to a player that has no experience at the position? It is certainly a gamble however if Newton continues to play like he did last year at his new position it would be a great move.
2014 Team: Dallas Cowboys
2014 Stats: 7 starts at Right Tackle, 8.7 overall rating (4.4 pass blocking, 4.4 run blocking)
One player who may not require such a large contract would be Dallas Cowboys’ Jermey Parnell. The backup tackle got to start seven games last year for the Cowboys due to injuries by starter Doug Free. Parnell entered the NFL in 2009 as a defensive end as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints.
After stops with the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints for a second time, he joined the Dallas Cowboys in 2010. The majority of his time with the Cowboys has been being the backup at right tackle for Free however he did get one start in 2012 at left tackle.
Parnell is an athletic player who actually went to college, Ole Miss, on a basketball scholarship but decided to switch to football his senior season. If the Panthers want to draft an offensive tackle in the first round, signing a player like Parnell would not be a bad move. He could compete for that spot with the rookie and if he gets beat out would be an excellent backup for either tackle position.
2014 Team: Tennessee Titans
2014 Stats: 12 starts at Right Tackle, -20.2 overall rating (-8.9 pass blocking, -11.4 run blocking)
This is the one player in this group that has seen the most playing time at left tackle (37 starts) and could be the best fit. Many people will know the name due to the book and movie based on him, The Blind Side. Unfortunately for him, his time in the NFL has not had a Hollywood ending. After five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, he joined the Tennessee Titans last year on a four-year, $20 million dollar contract. He only completed one season that was cut short due to a toe injury. He didn’t look great when he was on the field and the Titans decided to release Oher this offseason.
This is a move that Oher could find very intriguing. He has struggled the past few seasons between his time with Baltimore and Tennessee. It is hard to imagine a team offering him a starting opportunity and at the very least will give him the chance to compete for a starting role. The Panthers have a glaring hole at the left tackle and would be Oher easiest path to a starting job.
Meanwhile for the Panthers, they get a veteran player who can back up at both tackle spots. This move would take pressure off the front office to reach for a left tackle in the first round because they would have a player who has significant experience at the position. With how the free agency market is for offensive tackles this year, Oher would make the most sense for the Panthers to bring in. However the front office job will still need to bring in competition for Oher through the draft.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.