We continue our series of previewing the top free-agents-to-be at each position, as ranked by TheSidelineView's Adam Caplan, with perhaps the most talent-rich position of this year's free agency period: offensive tackle. Now, many of the players on this list may not even hit the open market, but there are more than 10 starting-caliber tackles who could end up attracting attention throughout the free agency period. For the Eagles, the question is whether Chip Kelly and co. want to keep
1. Ryan Clady, Denver – Ht: 6-6, Wt: 315, Age: 26, Exp: 5
Career: Clady, the 12th overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, has started all 16 games in each of his five seasons with the Broncos and is a three-time Pro Bowler. The Broncos placed their franchise tag on Peyton Manning’s blindside protector.
Fit: Though the Eagles already have a franchise left tackle in Jason Peters, there surely would have been interest in Clady if he was on the open market. Now that Clady’s been tagged, cross him off any list as it would require surrendering two first-round picks to sign the player.
2. Jake Long, Miami – Ht: 6-7, Wt: 319, Age: 27, Exp: 5
Career: The first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Long has been a dependable, if not dominant, left tackle for the Dolphins. He’s faced some injury concerns over the last few years, ending consecutive seasons on injured reserve with a torn biceps and a torn triceps, respectively. There’s also a question as to how Long fits in the Dolphins’ zone blocking scheme installed last season under Joe Philbin.
Fit: Long, like Clady and, more importantly, Peters is a left tackle by trade, but he could project to a good fit on the right side. Long did allow four sacks last season and led the Dolphins in penalties in his 12 games, but the four-time Pro Bowler can be a mauling run blocker and can still be an effective pass blocker. If he checks out medically, and if the price tag is right, Long could make sense for the Eagles.
3. Sam Baker, Atlanta – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 301, Age: 27, Exp: 5
Career: Another member of the 2008 Draft class, Baker has been a consistent starting piece for the Falcons since earning a job midway through his rookie season. Another left tackle, Baker is an important piece of the unit that protects Matt Ryan.
Fit: With the slew of roster cuts made by the Falcons last week, it would be a surprise to see Baker not return to Atlanta, though he may still hit the open market. Baker would also need to check out physically, as he’s had back issues in the past.
4. Branden Albert, Kansas City – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 316, Age: 28, Exp: 5
Career: Yet another player drafted in 2008, Albert was picked 15th overall as a former collegiate guard who slotted right over to left tackle for the Chiefs. Albert has been quite steady for the Chiefs, but he sustained a back injury during the 2012 season.
Fit: The Chiefs face an interesting decision on Albert. With the first overall pick, the Chiefs could replace Albert with a new left tackle of the future and let Albert hit the open market. That looks to be the most likely scenario now, with Alex Smith negating the need for a quarterback. If Albert does hit free agency, he’d be looking for a big deal, which he might find from a team more desperate for a left tackle than the Eagles.
Update: After signing wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to an extension, the Chiefs placed their franchise tag on Albert.
5. Andre Smith, Cincinnati – Ht: 6-4, Wt: 335, Age: 26, Exp: 4
Career: Smith came into the league plagued by questions about his fitness. After earning the right tackle job for good in 2011, Smith has been one of the fiercer right tackles in the game, especially during a breakout 2012 season in which he started all 16 games.
Fit: If the Eagles are looking for a right tackle, Smith could be the guy. After the Bengals used their franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson, it looks like Smith will hit the open market. But how much money will he seek? And more importantly, could he handle the physical demands of Chip Kelly’s offense that is expected to be up-temp?
6. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota – Ht: 6-8, Wt: 343, Age: 27, Exp: 4
Career: Another mauling right tackle from the 2009 draft class, Loadholt earned the right tackle job as a rookie as hasn’t looked back since, starting 63 games over the last four years.
Fit: Because the Vikings are such a run-dependent offense and because Loadholt is their best run blocker, it would be a pretty big surprise to see him land elsewhere. But if he is available, the Eagles could have interest, though he faces similar question marks to Smith.
7. Sebastian Vollmer, New England – Ht: 6-8, Wt: 320, Age: 28, Exp: 4
Career: Vollmer has shown to be capable of playing both left and right tackle, though he’s played primarily on the right side recently. He did recently have arthroscopic knee surgery, though it’s not expected to affect him long-term.
Fit: Vollmer would seem to fit what the Eagles are seeking in offensive linemen, but, again, it would be a surprise to see him hit land somewhere outside of New England.
8. Jermon Bushrod, New Orleans – Ht: 6-5, Wt: 315, Age: 28, Exp: 6
Career: After playing collegiately at Towson, the 2007 fourth-round pick spent his first two seasons in New Orleans developing on the bench before taking over the starting left tackle job in the Saints’ Super Bowl season of 2009. Since then, he’s had a stronghold on the position, starting in all 48 games over the last three seasons.
Fit: Indications are that the Saints will make it a priority to retain Bushrod and to maintain consistency on Drew Brees’ blind side. Even if Bushrod did hit the open market, it’s unlikely the Eagles would be serious suitors.
9. Jammal Brown, Washington – Ht: 6-6, Wt: 317, Age: 31, Exp: 7
Career: Bushrod’s predecessor at left tackle in New Orleans, Brown left for Washington in 2010, where he started for two seasons, mostly at right tackle. Brown did not play in 2012 for Washington because of a hip injury and his contract recently voided, making him a free agent.
Fit: The Eagles could be in the market for a cheap, starting-caliber right tackle, but Brown comes with significant question marks about his health. At 31, Brown doesn’t seem like an ideal fit, but if there turns out to be little market for the veteran perhaps he would look to sign for a cheap, veteran discount.
10. Gosder Cherilus, Detroit – Ht: 6-7, Wt: 325, Age: 28, Exp: 5
Career: A first-round pick in 2008, Cherilus has been a steady right tackle for the Lions since, starting 71 of 75 games over five seasons. He ranked as the second-best right tackle in the league in 2012 according to ProFootballFocus, behind only fellow free agent Andre Smith.
Fit: Cherilus is an interesting case as he reportedly had offseason alternative knee surgery in Europe. Though he’s been steady for Detroit, indications are that the Lions may let Cherilus move on. They recently re-signed swing tackle Corey Hilliard and also have 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff in tow. If Cherilus proves healthy, he could make sense in Philadelphia.
Free Agency Previews: