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2005 NFL Free Agents: OFFENSIVE LINE
By: Thomas J Gersey


1. Walter Jones, SEA, UFA (6'5, 315) (EDITOR'S NOTE: Jones just resigned with Seattle)
As is usually the case, this spot was filled by Orlando Pace until his annual franchise tag was placed. In his stead, we place the perennial pro bowler Jones. Jones gets exceptional leverage for his size, and maintains his blocks well into the play. He rarely gives up a sack, and will be a must get for teams looking for a franchise left tackle to protect their QB's blind side. He is not a world beater in the run game, however, he does not get overran in execution, instead maintaining his defender long enough to allow a slashing back to get through the hole. He is a finesse player, and won't pancake his assignment, but he will almost never get beaten off the snap.

BEST BETS: Chicago, NY Giants, Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, Buffalo, NY Jets, Cleveland

LIKELY SCENARIO: The bottom line is that everyone wants a left tackle, and Jones is a premier player who will get calls from almost every team. Seattle would love to keep him, but with Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck both free agents, someone has to go. If it's Jones, expect him to head east where the money is going to be excellent, and the opportunity to win will be there as well. Chicago, Buffalo and both New York teams have young quarterbacks that they are anxious to protect. Seeing Jones in Giant blue or Jet green would not suprise me in the least bit. The Bears may be interested, but are likely to move John Tait to LT. Meanwhile, how much are the Browns willing to spend to improve? That remains to be seen.

2. Jonas Jennings, BUFF, UFA (6'3, 325)
A significant step down from either Pace or Jones, Jennings falls short of them due to a lack of consistency and a susceptibility to injury. After missing time in 2003 and 2004, questions have to be asked about Jennings' ability to stay healthy over the course of a full season. For young teams lacking depth, the reliability of their offensive line is very important. A strong run blocker, Jennings gets great push from his lower half, and is able to push his man off the line. However, his reaction time is below average, and he can be beaten on the end by a speed rusher. Would be a great fit with a veteran team dependant on the run looking for a young run-blocking tackle.

BEST BETS: Buffalo, Washington, Miami, Cleveland, Carolina

LIKELY SCENARIO: Jennings is the best option after Jones is gone, and will likely seek to be overpaid. I imagine Buffalo, with few free agents, will retain Jennings. If not, Washington would be a great fit where Joe Gibbs and Clinton Portis will welcome him with open arms.

3. Victor Riley, NO, UFA ( 6'5, 340)
Big and athletic, Riley gets the nod here for his balanced skills and his experience. While more effective in the run game, Riley has shown the ability to be a dependable player whether moving the ball on the ground or through the air. He has the lower body strength to beat average defenders off the snap, and the reach to keep back pass rushers. However, he shows an inability to adjust to the moves of a quicker rusher, and often has to overcompensate, which can cost a quarterback time. He has been accused of a lack of conditioning, but for the most part, when fully healthy and in shape, he is a pro-bowl caliber right tackle. Would fit best with a balanced offense run by a mobile quarterback.

BEST BETS: St Louis, New Orleans, Carolina, Philadelphia

LIKELY OUTCOME: Like most lineman, Riley will get a look by almost every team, and improving the tackle position is an ongoing process. Teams like New England and Minnesota may consider Riley and upgrade, but at what cost? Expect a team like St Louis to push after Riley hard, as his skills match very well with what Mike Martz is trying to accomplish. Philly would also be an excellent option where Riley would fit in well with the core of veteran players.

4. Stockar McDougal, DET, UFA ( 6'6, 335)
McDougal's bread and butter is his size. He carries a huge frame, and is difficult to get around off the snap. Once he locks up a defender, the play is over. However, if a defender can get the jump on him, he is slow to recover, and lacks the footwork and lateral movement to make up for mistakes. His size benefits him when he is able to wear down his opponent, making mistakes less and less frequent as the game progresses. He is still young, but his lack of athleticism cannot be fixed. A refinement of his technique may improve his production some, but he is, for the most part, a finished product.

BEST BETS: Detroit, NY Giants, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, San Diego, Cleveland

LIKELY OUTCOME: Detroit will probably keep McDougle on board. If not, Atlanta and Cleveland appear to be ideal destinations for this road grader. The Chargers would be a nice candidate to jump in on this auction, however, they will likely spend their money on skill players.

5. Ryan Diem, IND, UFA ( 6'6, 331)
Diem is a grinder. He has the size to effectively open up holes in the run game, but he is far from a refined pass blocker, and lacks the footwork and finesse to keep pass rushers off of the quarterback for a great deal of time. He has had the benefit of working with Peyton Manning, who gets rid of the ball extremely quick. However, if signed by a team with a quarterback slow to make decisions, he may prove to be a liability. Diem is a gamer, and is relatively young with only 4 years experience in the league. He would fit best with a running team with a veteran quarterback.

BEST BETS: Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Atlanta, NY Giants, Tampa Bay, Kansas City

LIKLEY OUTCOME: The Colts are faced with trying to retain a large number of free agents, but will want to spend what little money they have on defense. Diem is a prime candidate to walk, and would be a nice fit in Cleveland, where his blue collar work ethic and rugged run blocking would fit in nicely with the resurgent Browns.


1. Marco Rivera, GB, UFA (6'4, 307)
Fundamentally sound, Rivera is a consistent performer that can be plugged into the guard position and forgotten about. He attacks defenders off the snap, and will push the pile for an inside runner. He lacks the mobility to get out to trap or pull, so his ideal suitor will feature a power back or inside slasher. In the pass game, he locks on to his opponent effectively, and has the intelligence and recognition to anticipate the moves of his opponent and neutralize them. He is experienced and consistent, and the key to being happy with his production is to not expect too much of him. One of the better free agents on the market.

BEST BETS: Oakland, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Minnesota, Carolina

LIKELY OUTCOME: Guard is not tradionally a position teams scour the free agent market for, but Rivera would be an exception. Philly and Minnesota seem to be great fits for Rivera, who could be plugged into the line, and left alone. Green Bay obviously wants to keep him, however, they have two restricted free agents (Davenport and Nall) who may cost them excessive amounts to keep. They are already planning on releasing Mike Wahle for economic reasons, so retaining Rivera becomes a dicey proposition.

2. Cosey Coleman, TB, UFA (6'4, 322)
Coleman is young and talented, and would be a great pick up for an up-and-coming team. More of a finesse player than a brute, Coleman possess the rare combination of good footwork, lower body strength, and the arm extension needed to keep defenders at bay. While he may lack the mean streak most teams look for in a lineman, Coleman would be a great fit in a precision attack that calls for many different qualities. Coleman can hold defenders at the point of attack, move outside on a pull, then sit back and keep pass rushers off of the quarterback. He isn't instinctive, but that is to be expected of a 26 year old. An ideal candidate for a long term contract, Coleman could develop into an elite guard over time.

BEST BETS: Oakland, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, San Diego, Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Minnesota

LIKELY OUTCOME: In the end, I believe Coleman will become one of the most highly sought after free agents. He is young and skilled, and would lock up a position for his suitor for 10 years. Oakland and Philly have the money, the history, and the future potential to be ideal destinations. However, might the Georgia native return to his routes in Falcon black? The promise of playing with Mike Vick can be quite enticing.

3. Ben Hamilton, DEN, UFA (6'4, 283)
The first thing one notices about Hamilton is his small stature relative to other lineman. Built in the mold of recent Bronco lineman, Hamilton is quick off the snap, and gets to his assignement immediately. He executes efficiently, though lacks the size to sustain his blocks long enough to allow his quarterback to improvise. He is best suited on a team with a speed back, as he will create holes early, but will be susceptible to a defender pushing that hole closed. He can get down field to block, but often gets pushed around in space. He is precise and strong for his size, and would do well in a west coast offense.

BEST BETS: Denver, Atlanta, Minnesota

LIKELY OUTCOME: A great fit in all three places. Expect the Broncos to retain Hamilton, but the thought of playing at home in Minneapolis (U of Minnesota alum) or rejoining line coach Alex Gibbs in Atlanta may both be too enticing.

4. Jermane Newberry, PHI, UFA (6'4, 325)
Injuries and time are taking their toll on Newberry. This veteran could be had for a reasonable price, and in the right offense has another productive year or two in him. He is best suited in a power running attack, and would serve as a stop gap replacement on a veteran team looking to groom a young replacement. Big and strong, Newberry gets by on brute force. He pushes the pile and gets great leverage at the point of attack simply by exerting his force. Ask him to move around in a specialized offense and he will be lost immediately. He doesnt have the athleticism required to pull and trap, and would quickly become a liability.

BEST BETS: Philadelphia, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Oakland

LIKELY OUTCOME: If it is one thing Tampa and Oakland have in common, it is a willingness to bring in veterans. If Coleman can't be had, Newberry, the polar opposite to Coleman mind you, would be a likely fill in. It does not appear that retaining Newberry is in the plans for the Eagles.

5. Joe Andruzzi, NE, UFA (6'3, 312)
Andruzzi gets the fifth spot over Bennie Anderson (Balt) and Rick DeMulling Ind) for his experience. Anderson is more athletic, and DeMulling is younger, but Andruzzi is a great fit for a young team looking for leadership and consistent play. After a third Super Bowl title, Andruzzi may look to cash in on his performance, although Patriots typically stick around for less. Andruzzi is a solid starter who will give above average effort in both the passing and the running game. He gets great angles on his blocks, and opens up wide lanes for slashing runners. He tends to get beat by one-gap defenders, as his body is starting to break down after 8 seasons in the league. He is also susceptible to superior bull rushers who can beat him on brute strength. The truth is, he can dominate lesser players, and may get beaten by the stars of the league. When evenly matched, he won't hurt you, and will win the battle 50% of the time. He gives consistent production, and can be counted on over the course of a season.

BEST BETS: New England, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Cleveland, Tampa Bay

LIKELY OUTCOME: It will likely come down to money vs. loyalty. What route will Andruzzi take? In the past, all Patriots have chosen loyalty. With three titles, he will either remain part of a dynasty, or cash in. History says that most players cash in, so a deal with SB opponent Philadelphia or desparate Tampa or Cleveland seems highly possible.

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