Free agency preview: Top tackles

The offensive tackles in free agency are largely right tackles, potentially decreasing their value and demand. We look at the top options, with most of them stronger in run blocking than pass protection.

While there aren’t any anticipated Pro Bowlers or All-Pro players among the bunch that would rate five stars, there are several players that should be starters for most teams that will generate interest in free agency.

Two of the top four offensive tackles were taken off the market early, however, as retirement looms for one while another re-signed with his current team before he could make it to the open market.

Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers: While he has never turned into a dominant starter, Bulaga has been solid in his four seasons as a starter for the Packers, starting 48 of 52 games played. He has proved to be a pretty good pass protector from his right tackle spot, keeping Aaron Rodgers relatively clean and is serviceable as a run blocker.

Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans: He suffered a season-ending knee injury in October and has decided to call it quits in the NFL after 10 seasons as a starter. Had he come back, he likely would have been a sought-after free agent.

Doug Free, Dallas Cowboys: An ankle injury limited Free to 11 regular-season games and he was inactive for the playoffs, too. After a down season in 2012, Free has rebounded the past two seasons to show he can be a capable pass protector as well as an effective run blocker. Like Bulaga, he likely won’t be plucked as a left tackle, but right tackles are still a valued commodity in the NFL and Free will be one of the top ones if he gets to the open market.

King Dunlap, San Diego Chargers: The Chargers kept one of the top free agent tackles off the market when they re-signed him to a four-year, $28 million deal, further limiting the amount of quality offensive tackles available.

Joe Barksdale: St. Louis Rams: As a full-time starter for two years and having five years of experience, Barksdale has proved to be a very good run blocker at right tackle, although his pass protection earned him negative grades from Pro Football Focus. He should be a serviceable starter, but not quite at the level of Bulaga and Free.

Byron Bell, Carolina Panthers: Like Barksdale, Bell is 26 years old, but Bell has been a full-time starter for all four of his seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He played on the left side, which enhances his value, but after being credited with eight penalties and giving up nine sacks, he was one of the lower-rated tackles by PFF. He is expected to hit the open market looking for a new team.

Derek Newton, Houston Texans: Newton had a very solid season at right tackle, earning the fourth-best run blocking grade for tackles by PFF. However, his pass protection was ranked in the lower half of tackles, making him a bit of a one-trick pony. He has been a full-time starter for the last three years with the Texans, giving him both quality experience and enough youth (27 years old).


FREE AGENCY POSITIONAL PREVIEWS

Still to come: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end
OFFENSE: Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center
DEFENSE: Defensive tackle | Defensive end | Outside linebacker |
Inside linebacker | Safety | Cornerback

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