Offensive tackles, especially on the left side, are highly sought-after in the NFL, but the best ones aren’t always available in free agency. This year, there are some talented starters that could make it to free agency, but the next week will be telling.
CORDY GLENN, BUFFALO
Cordy Glenn has been a full-time, four-year starter for the Buffalo Bills, who were looking to re-sign him before deciding on giving him the $13.7 million franchise tag. That buys them more time to re-sign him. If he would have hit the open market without the heavy draft-pick compensation associated with the tag, he would have been the cream of the tackle crop. He’s stronger in pass protection than run blocking, but that’s where left tackles are supposed be best.
MITCHELL SCHWARTZ, CLEVELAND
Mitchell Schwartz had been a four-year, full-time starter for the Cleveland Browns at right tackle, opposite Joe Thomas, and this year graded out as one of the best tackles in the game, according to Pro Football Focus. If his contract year is an indication of how good he can be in the future, he’s worth a strong offer. That might not come from the Browns, who have plenty of free agents to worry about.
DONALD PENN, OAKLAND
Donald Penn has followed the money. He went from starting no games in 2006 with the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to developing into a reliable blindside protector since 2007. While he reportedly isn’t willing to give the Oakland Raiders the familiarity discount, the Raiders have plenty of money to spend to retain him. If they don’t, he should command big money on the open market, despite turning 33 in April.
RUSSELL OKUNG, SEATTLE
After seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Okung is a free agent again. There is no denying his talent, but his injury history has caused him to miss at least one game each season and as many as eight in 2013. That’s a risk. He also had minor shoulder surgery this offseason that isn’t expected to impact his availability by the time things get serious in the summer. He is a former first-round pick and he could get paid like it if he doesn’t agree to a contract with Seattle before free agency starts.
RYAN SCHRAEDER, ATLANTA
Ryan Schraeder has a lot going for him heading into free agency, but one thing going against him. He is a restricted free agent, which means the Atlanta Falcons can make him a qualifying offer that could be too rich for other teams to match. He emerged as a very solid starting right tackle in 2015, but his big-money offer may have to wait until next year if he reaches the open market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.