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Assessing the free agent OT class from a Titans perspective

With longtime swing man Mike Otto a free agent and David Stewart a possible cap casualty/retirement candidate after an injury-plagued 2013 seasons, right tackle definitely seems like a position the Titans could choose to address in free agency. It is not quite as obvious to me that they will in fact do so compared to, e.g., tight end and guard, which I previewed before free agency last year and where the Titans signed one of the players I briefly wrote up.

It feels like offensive tackle is one of the better positions in this free agent class, but that is really true on the left side of the line. Players like Branden Albert, Eugene Monroe, and Jared Veldheer have all shown they can be solid starters, or better, at left tackle. The Titans already have a left tackle, though, and to get one of those three big names on the team, the Titans would have to pay good left tackle money. That is more than a top right tackle contract. Given what I’ve felt about most of Ruston Webster’s high-profile contract moves I will try not to underestimate his ability to throw what feels to me like silly amounts of money around. Still, I can’t see the Titans being too involved with any of those players, and I have not seen any reports from the early legal tampering period linking the Titans to any of the three.

Looking at the actual right tackles hitting free agency, there is no single player who matches the wattage of even a Gosder Cherilus last year, let alone a trio like the left tackles available. It is not quite as bleak as the right guard class was two years ago (reminder: blech), but that is not much of a comparison. My take on some options after the jump.

Michael Oher (Baltimore Ravens)-Former first-round pick has started all 80 games of his NFL career. Had a best-selling book and Academy Award-winning movie based on his life. Has played some left tackle, not just on the right side. Still young, turning 28 in May. Why is he a free agent, you wonder? Simple: he has not been very good at successfully blocking people. Why? Hard to say. The default “I don’t understand offensive line play” answer is he does not necessarily play with proper technique, a very useful non-answer. He might be available for a reasonable price, but only because his play hasn’t shown he deserves more money. I think you could do worse, and several teams did in 2013.

Anthony Collins (Cincinnati Bengals)-Swing tackle since joining the league in 2008, with only 25 total starts. Never started more than 7 games in a regular season. Has experience playing both left tackle and right tackle. Majority of RT starting experience non-recent-he started in 2009 when Andre Smith was declared a bust before the bye week of his rookie season, then shifted to the bench as Smith found the lineup. 2013 experience primarily at left tackle, where he played well enough a LT-needy team that misses out on the top three could easily see him as a starter. Very solid pass protector at LT and should be on the other side as well. Will the Titans want to spend big money on a right tackle still?

Austin Howard (New York Jets)-Started every game the past two seasons. Better in 2013 than he was in 2012, though that’s not saying much. Young, turning 27 in May. Good size at 6’7, 333 pounds. Could be a quality mauler if he was a better blocker. While he’s improved from the player Derrick Morgan ate alive on Monday Night Football in 2012, still not a particularly good pass protector. A player you could talk yourself into who gets your QB killed.

Zach Strief (New Orleans Saints)-Kind of like my feelings on Stewart before he got injured. He’s big at 6’7, 320, but is he that effective in the run game? Good enough for a right tackle in pass protection, though protecting Drew Brees as an OT is like protecting no other QB in the league and I would expect a decline in his pass protection effectiveness if he goes anywhere else. Turns 31 in September. Will look for and probably get starter money, and for more than one season.

Breno Giacomini (Seattle Seahawks)-Solid but unspectacular. Good enough in both areas, not so good you’re fully comfortable with him. Started all 16 games in 2012, but missed 7 games in 2013 with a knee injury. Turns 29 in September. Joined the Seahawks when Ruston Webster was with them, though I will be careful not to overread that connection. Not a long-term solution any more than Strief is in my book, but what are Webster and Ken Whisenhunt looking for in a right tackle?

Eric Winston (Arizona Cardinals)-Had another Eric Winston-esque season. More of a zone-scheme guy, so probably not an ideal fit but maybe a workable one. Turns 31 in November. Keeps ending up on the street and spent a long time there last offseason, apparently because of bad knees.

Jason Fox (Detroit Lions)-I liked him coming out of Miami four years ago as a potential developmental NFL left tackle. Turns 26 in May. Watching him play right tackle for the Lions in Week 17, I still wonder if he might have the feet but he doesn’t have the core strength to be an NFL starter. Could maybe fill in and have success against the right guy, would likely get eaten alive by somebody else.

Rodger Saffold (Rams)

Conclusion-Type Things

I have no inside information. The Titans could be interested in several or none of these guys. I covered the most prominent names, while Fox was the only Otto replacement I covered, just because he was a guy I liked a little bit coming out. I keep wanting to overread the Giacomini-Seattle-Webster connection even though I shouldn’t. If the Titans stick with the “did he play against us last year” heuristic, bump up Howard but not Giacomini (who was injured and inactive that week). I do think the Titans make at least some sort of move here, rather than relying on what they have on the roster and the draft to give them what they want, but it could be a minor one that does not happen quickly.