Matt Birk, UFA, Minnesota Vikings
Birk is a Pro Bowl center that has gotten the job done for the Vikings for the last decade. He’s fairly athletic for a lineman and was playing alongside another great lineman in guard Steve Hutchinson, making Birk’s life even easier on the field the past couple of seasons. He’s grounded in Minnesota, so the chances of him choosing to leave seem slim at the moment. However, Minnesota is grooming John Sullivan in hopes that he will eventually replace Birk.
Mike Goff, UFA, San Diego Chargers
While the Chargers would probably prefer to keep Goff, the franchise has been effective in drafting and developing linemen and might look for Goff’s replacement at a better price. Goff has been a leader who simply goes about his business and players like running back Ladainian Tomlinson have benefited from his level of play. Goff has played for a quality line for some time and he’s a big part of the equation when it comes to success.
Mark Tauscher, UFA, Green Bay Packers
Tauscher is a seventh round pick that became a success story. In his first season in the NFL, he was forced into a starting role because of an injury to another player. Tauscher isn’t an elite player, but he is solid in his role as a starter and hadn’t missed a game since 2002 until this season. Tauscher could be at the top of many team’s lists because he could come cheaper than some of the other free agent lineman, but could be nearly or equally effective.
Marvel Smith, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith may not be the most sought after offensive lineman during free agency, but he could be a bargain for a team willing to chance his health concerns by offering him a contract. He is a Pro-Bowl player with a Super Bowl ring, but back injuries have forced him to miss time this season and to be placed on injured reserve, thus impacting his potential value on the market. When healthy, Smith is one of the league’s best and Pittsburgh will attempt to keep him around because of the quality of player he has shown he can be.
Jahri Evans, RFA, New Orleans Saints
Since starting every game at the guard position in his rookie season, Evans has proven to be a quality lineman. He was drafted in the fourth round, but is in for a decent-sized contract this offseason. Any team in the market for a guard is going to consider Evans and the fact that he has helped protect for quarterback Drew Brees and an offense that has had plenty of time to operate and rack up yards. The Saints will look to keep Evans around, but there is bound to be a team willing to tempt him with a fair amount of money.
Jason Brown, RFA, Baltimore Ravens
A fourth round selection in ’05 for the Ravens, Brown played in all sixteen games in ’06, starting in twelve of those appearances, and has started each game during the past two seasons. He is a quick guard who can also play center in a pinch. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco benefited from the protection he was afforded by the likes of Brown. Baltimore’s offense is asked to complement one of the league’s best defensive units and Brown’s stability on the line has been critical. Whichever team winds up signing Brown will be adding security at a guard spot.
Jeff Saturday, UFA, Indianapolis Colts
Saturday entered the league with little fanfare as an undrafted free agent. Now, he has become one of the league’s best centers and will command a decent contract for his experience and performance. Having already earned three Pro Bowl and All Pro selections and a Super Bowl ring, Saturday is crucial to the Colts offensive line and winning ways. While a handful of teams could make a run at Saturday, expect the Colts to do everything in their power to retain the veteran center.
Other Offensive Lineman
Stacy Andrews, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals
Khalif Barnes, UFA, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jordan Black, UFA, Houston Texans
Vernon Carey, UFA, Miami Dolphins
George Foster, UFA, Detroit Lions
Chris Gray, UFA, Seattle Seahawks
Pete Kendall, UFA, Washington Redskins
Seth McKinney, UFA, Cleveland Browns
Jon Runyan, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles
Tra Thomas, UFA, Philadelphia Eagles
Fred Weary, UFA, Houston Texans
John Welbourn, UFA, Kansas City Chiefs
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