Free agency preview: Guards

The guard market is topped by mostly young players in their first year of free agency, which should be good news for teams looking for guards. The skill sets vary, but we take a look at the top five, with four of them 27 years old or younger.

Orlando Franklin, Denver Broncos: Franklin offers the best of three worlds when it comes to free agency – he is still relatively young at 27 years old, he has experience with four years as a starter, and he has started every game played in those four years with the Broncos. He is equally adept at run blocking and pass protection, allowing just one sack and eight hurries while playing over 1,100 offensive snaps last year. He also has the versatility to play tackle if needed, and he is likely to hit the open market as the Broncos overhaul their offensive line. The one drawback is that he was penalized 10 times in 2014.

Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers: Iupati has just one more season of experience than Franklin, and, like Franklin, the 49ers guard has been relatively durable, missing only four games in five seasons – all of those coming in the last two years. He is much more of a mauler than pass protector, allowing seven sacks in 2014, which could make Franklin a more valued commodity in free agency. Iupati is already reportedly drawing interest from Tampa Bay and Washington, according to a report from NBC Washington.

Clint Boling, Cincinnati Bengals: After four seasons with the Bengals, Boling is still only 27 years old and has been a full-time starter for the last three. He missed four games in 2013 after tearing an ACL, but he returned to start all 16 for the Bengals last year. His strength is in his run blocking.

Justin Blalock, Atlanta Falcons: At 31 years old, he could still have a couple solid seasons left in him after he was released by the Falcons. He is decent in both run blocking and pass protection, giving up three sacks in just under 1,000 snaps played last year. He has been a full-time starter since entering the league eight years ago and has missed only one game in the last seven seasons.

James Carpenter, Seattle Seahawks: Despite being a regular starter since the Seahawks drafted him in 2011, Carpenter has never been able to stay a starter for all 16 games. The only season he played in every game was in 2013, when he started 10. Last year, an ankle injury caused him to miss three games, but he returned for the final month and the playoffs. He wasn’t credited with giving up a sack the entire season, but he did have eight penalties.


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