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Free Agency Preview: Interior OL

Posted Mar 5, 2013

Next up in our Free Agency preview series, we turn to the interior of the offensive line, where the Eagles appear to have some important decisions to make. Evan Mathis is set at left guard after another strong season in Philadelphia. At center, Jason Kelce will return from injury bent on retaining the starting job for which he'll likely be favored, despite the solid year from Dallas Reynolds in Kelce's absence. Then there's right guard, where Danny Watkins struggled to hold the position in 2012, after which he was replaced by the likes of rookie Dennis Kelly and veteran free-agent-to-be Jake Scott. So will the Eagles go after more insurance at the position? If so, there are the players they'll be looking at, ranked according to Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com ...

GUARD

1. Andy Levitre, Buffalo – Ht: 6-2, Wt: 305, Age: 26, Exp: 4

Career: A second-round pick by the Bills out of Oregon State in 2009, Levitre has started all 64 games of his four-year career. Primarily a left guard, Levitre is especially impressive as a pass blocker.

Fit: There was some thought that the Bills might place their franchise tag on Levitre, but the team chose to give safety Jairus Byrd that distinction. Indications are that the Bills would like to retain Levitre, but he might command a handsome price as the top guard on the market, especially considering his relative youth.

2. Lance Louis, Chicago – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 320, Age: 27, Exp: 4

Career: Drafted by the Bears in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Louis didn’t play until 2010, when he was a backup interior lineman who ended up starting four games for the team. He took over as the starting right guard in 2011 and has played in 25 games over the last two seasons, starting 24 times.

Fit: The market for Louis will be interesting as he was coming on as a reliable starting offensive lineman before tearing his ACL in November on what was originally ruled a dirty play by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Louis’ readiness to return will affect his price, no doubt, and it probably takes him out of the mix for the Eagles.

3. Brandon Moore, New York Jets – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 305, Age: 32, Exp: 10

Career: The mark of consistency and dependability, Moore hasn’t missed a game since his sophomore season in 2004, starting in all 16 games in each of the last eight seasons for the Jets, who originally signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois. Moore is still playing at a high level, as evidenced by his fourth overall ranking in 2012 among all guards according to ProFootballFocus.

Fit: Moore will be 33 next season, so he may not fit the direction the Eagles are heading in the immediate future. But reports are that the Jets will let Moore go elsewhere and if the price-point on a player of Moore’s quality drops low enough, perhaps the Eagles would be intrigued.

4. Leroy Harris, Tennessee – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 303, Age: 28, Exp: 6

Career: Harris is a versatile interior offensive lineman who has started games at all three interior positions. He was the Titans’ starting left guard in 2010 and 2011 before moving to the right side in 2012. But Harris tore an ACL in the team’s eighth game of the season and was placed on injured reserve.

Fit: The Titans are reportedly interested in bringing Harris back as a backup. If his asking price drops, perhaps the Eagles would be interested in bringing him in as competition but the relatively recent ACL tear could prove prohibitive.

5. Matt Slauson, New York Jets – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 315, Age: 27, Exp: 4

Career: A sixth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2009 by the Jets, Slauson earned the starting left guard job in Training Camp prior to the 2010 season and has started every game there since. He ranked in the middle of the pack among guards over that time according to ProFootballFocus.

Fit: Slauson’s combination of experience and youth is intriguing, but the Eagles might be able to do better if they look for a guard in free agency. Slauson appears more likely to re-sign in New York than Moore.

6. Cooper Carlisle, Oakland – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 310, Age: 35, Exp: 13

Career: The veteran of this bunch, Carlisle just finished his 13th seasons in the league, the last six of which have been spent as a starter for the Raiders. Carlisle was originally a fourth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2000. He has experience playing both guard positions.

Fit: Though a good player, Carlisle is nearing the end of his career and probably isn’t what Chip Kelly and co. will be looking for in free agency.

7. Kevin Boothe, New York Giants – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 320, Age: 29, Exp: 7

Career: Boothe had an interesting early career, joining the Oakland Raiders as a sixth-round pick out of Cornell in 2006 and starting 14 games as a rookie. But the Raiders released Boothe the following offseason amid changes to the blocking scheme and Boothe joined the New York Giants. He emerged as a starter for New York in 2011, and started all 16 games at left guard in 2012.

Fit: After the Giants re-signed left tackle Will Beatty, the expectation was that they would bring back Boothe for consistency’s sake on the left side of the offensive line. But the Giants have yet to make that decision and the 29-year-old make find more money elsewhere on the market. He doesn’t appear to be a fit for the Eagles, however.

8. Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh – Ht: 6-6, Wt: 325, Age: 27, Exp: 4

Career: Foster started 30 games for the Steelers over the last two seasons split between left and right guard. Undrafted out of Tennessee in 2009, Foster is graded to be a better pass blocker than run blocker.

Fit: The Steelers will reportedly let Foster go elsewhere in an attempt to transition to a more athletic offensive line. Foster is a starting-caliber guard but will probably find a role outside of the state of Pennsylvania.

9. Stephen Peterman, Detroit – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 323, Age: 31, Exp: 8

Career: Peterman joined the Lions in 2006 and became their starting right guard in 2007, a role he’s held ever since. But the Lions released Peterman earlier this offseason as they look to turn over the offensive line.

Fit: Peterman is already on the market and the Eagles have yet to express interest. He could turn out to be a bargain opportunity for depth down the free agency road.

10. Garrett Reynolds, Atlanta – Ht: 6-7, Wt: 310, Age: 25, Exp: 4

Career: A fifth-round pick in 2009, Reynolds worked his way into the starting lineup through injury in 2011 before earning the starting right guard job heading into 2012. But a back injury forced Reynolds onto injured reserve midway through the season, after which he was replaced by 2012 draft pick Peter Konz.

Fit: Reynolds may return to Atlanta, though his youth and experience at right guard could be intriguing if he hits the market. He will have to check out medically.

One other guard to keep an eye on could be Louis Vasquez, who has been the starting right guard for the San Diego Chargers since joining the team as a third-round pick in 2009. The soon-to-be 26-year-old is a reliable, young option at a potential position of interest.

CENTER

1. Fernando Velasco, Tennessee (RFA) – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 312, Age: 28, Exp: 4

Career: A backup entering 2012, Velasco started all 16 games in the middle for Tennesee and ranked as the 11th-best center in the league over the course of the season, according to ProFootballFocus. The Titans have not yet decided whether to extended the restricted free agent an offer.

Fit: If Velasco goes untendered, he could be an option if the price is right, but it’s hard to see the Eagles giving up much of anything with Jason Kelce in tow.

2. Brad Meester, Jacksonville – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 292, Age: 35, Exp: 13

Career: A long-time Jacksonville stalwart, Meester joined the Jaguars’ starting offensive line immediately after he was drafted in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of Northern Iowa. He has started all 193 games he’s played over his 13 seasons. Peyton Manning is the only active player to have started every single game of his career with more starts than Meester.

Fit: Meester, impressive as his career has been, is falling to the tail end of his career and ranked near the bottom of ProFootballFocus’ rankings last season. He doesn’t appear to make sense for the Eagles.

3. Todd McClure, Atlanta – Ht: 6-1, Wt: 296, Age: 36, Exp: 13

Career: McClure has been around just as long as Meester and in fact has 195 starts to Meester’s 193. Like Meester, he’s spent his entire career in one place after he was a seventh-round pick of the Falcons in 1999.

Fit: Reports out of Atlanta indicate that McClure will either return to Atlanta as a backup or retire after a remarkably durable and impressive career.

4. Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay (RFA) – Ht: 6-2, Wt: 308, Age: 26, Exp: 3

Career: Perhaps most famous for getting stomped on by Ndamukong Suh, Dietrich-Smith has been the Packers’ top interior backup offensive lineman for the last two seasons. He can play all three interior positions and has nine starts over the last two seasons.

Fit: Dietrich-Smith is an emerging young player and is seen by some in Green Bay as the center of the future. It would be a surprise for the Packers not to tender him.

5. Brian de la Puente, New Orleans (RFA) – Ht: 6-3, Wt: 306, Age: 27, Exp: 3

Career: Originally undrafted in 2008 out of California, de la Puente went through the ringer of the waiver/practice squad process, making six different stops at four separate teams before finally landing with the Saints practice squad in 2010. In 2011, de la Puente took over as the starting center during the season and hasn’t looked back since. He finished as the second-best center in the league in 2012 according to ProFootballFocus.

Fit: A restricted free agent, de la Puente is likely to be tendered by the Saints. If he does hit the open market, it’s even more likely that he would find a starting job somewhere outside of Philadelphia.


Free Agency Previews:

Quarterback
Running back & Fullback
Wide Receiver

Tight End
Offensive Tackle

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