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Assessing the free agent guard class from a Titans perspective

I recently wrote in some detail about the free agent defensive ends. In terms of the Titans’ depth chart vacancies, the only place beyond defensive end where I think they could be really looking to add a starting-caliber player in free agency is as a replacement for Jake Scott at right guard.

As I did for the defensive ends, I’ll be using Sideline View and Rotoworld‘s listings of free agents. In doing this analysis, it’s worth noting the Titans have indicated they’re interested in getting younger on the offensive line. Players on the wrong side of 30 probably need not apply.

In looking at the guards, the pickings seem pretty slim. In the defensive end class, I found eleven players who seemed like they might be fits for the Titans, plus four more who’d gone off the market. Now? Well.

Carl Nicks
(New Orleans Saints)-Coming off his rookie deal and turning 27 in May, so young. Left guard, so signing him would require line-shuffling or playing an unfamiliary position. Wants to be the best-paid guard in the NFL; currently that’s Logan Mankins at six years, APY of $8.5 million and a guarantee of $30 million. Listed at 343 pounds, bigger than the Titans have preferred their linemen. Note the Saints paid their right guard, Jahri Evans, the kind of money Nicks is looking for. I can’t see him being a priority for the Titans.

Mike Brisiel (Houston Texans)-Turns 29 Thursday, so older than the Titans would prefer but still not too old. The Texans apparently have some level of interest in retaining him, so may come off the market before tomorrow. Scheme limited, best for a pure zone scheme such as the Texans and Redskins run and the Raiders are implementing; while the Titans aren’t a true ZBS team, Brisiel’s mobility is still a good fit for their outside zone plays. Regular injury issues, has not played more than 13 games since 2008 and missed 18 games over the last three seasons. I think a team like Oakland will convince themselves they need him more than the Titans do; more likely if he’s still a free agent in two weeks and the Texans don’t make a serious effort to bring him back.

Ben Grubbs (Baltimore Ravens)-Just turned 28, left guard. Much of what I said about Nicks fits him as well, and will be about as expensive.
Evan Mathis (Philadelphia Eagles)-Turns 31 in November, left guard. Like Babineaux, played for the Eagles at less than his actual salary and thus cannot be re-signed until the new league year begins. The Eagles have indicated they’re interested in bringing him back. Tendency to get overpowered, which would be exacerbated at right guard.
Jacob Bell (St. Louis Rams)-Yes, really. Just turned 31. Left guard. Reviews of his performance with the Rams have not been glowing.
Vernon Carey (Miami Dolphins)-Turns 31 at the end of July. Swing player with the ability to play tackle as well, which will likely inflate his value. Big at 340 pounds. Expect he’ll get more money to play right tackle elsewhere.
Leonard Davis (Detroit Lions)-An actual right guard! Turns 34 in September. Spent much of 2011 out of the NFL. Jason Jones got him benched in 2010 by repeatedly beating him with quickness. If he’s “in shape”, he might only be 350 pounds.
Bobbie Williams (Cincinnati Bengals)-Another right guard! Turns 36 in September. Missed 7 games in 2011 between a PED suspension and a season-ending ankle injury. 345 pounds. Can’t see it.
Steve Hutchinson (Minnesota Vikings)-Turns 35 in November. Has said before 2012 will be his last year, though that was when 2012 was the last year of his deal with the Vikings. Once great, now somewhere between not bad and good. Ended both of the two past seasons on IR, as Andrew noted. Left guard.
Jake Scott (Tennessee Titans)-Listed by some as the top right guard on the free agent market. Bleacher Report’s fifth-ranked right guard. Just had to get that out there.

Frankly, it’s hard to see the Titans being very interested in the right guard market, just because what’s out there is old junk. If they do add a player, it’ll be somebody old who might compete for a starting job (read: be available to be a mediocre starter if a rookie and/or Velasco falls flat on their face) or a player with basically no NFL experience. Fortunately, draftnik consensus seems to be that there’ll be a good group of guards available. I’ll be writing in more detail about them later in the draft if the Titans don’t surprise me and address the position in a serious way in free agency.