If you haven’t seen it already, we’ve revealed the top 25 free agents in the 2015 NFL class. Now we’re breaking the crop down by positions.
Contenders and non-contenders alike will be out to revamp their offensive lines. Remember, it’s how the Cowboys returned to contention. Teams such as Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Washington, and Carolina may all be seeking upgrades this offseason.
Here are the top five free agent options:
1. Mike Iupati
Iupati ranks as the top offensive guard and lineman overall in the 2015 free-agent crop, and it’s believed he’ll set the market by earning the biggest contract in the league for guards this offseason.
The 49ers are expected to let Iupati walk to tend to other areas of need and allow younger players to try and step into his role. So let the bidding war begin.
Teams like Tampa Bay and Jacksonville had no semblance of a running game in 2014 because of issues on the interior part of their lines last season. Iupati is arguably the top run-blocking guard in the NFL.
2. Bryan Bulaga
The top free-agent tackle, Bulaga is considered to be a top priority for the Packers, who also need to find a way to retain impending free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb. Not surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers said both Bulaga and Cobb are high priorities this offseason.
A first-round pick back in 2010, Bulaga has dealt with a handful of injuries. But healthy in 2014, the tackle started all 17 games and was a top pass-blocker.
At 25 years old, teams can overlook an injury past and focus in on the terrific 2014 campaign. He’ll set the market for tackles this offseason, whether it’s a deal from Green Bay or not.
3. Orlando Franklin
Franklin has served as both a guard and tackle during his time in Denver, and the versatile 27-year-old lineman has fared very well at both positions.
In 2013, Franklin led all NFL tackles in pass blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus. At guard, he continued his stellar pass protection, allowing just one sack, two quarterback hits and 11 total pressures on Peyton Manning.
Teams with needs at either guard or tackle can take a chance on Franklin, who may be on his way out of Denver, which has a multitude of free-agent players to try and retain.
4. Doug Free
Free began his career in Dallas as a left tackle, but switched to the right side and found a niche. He ranks behind Bulaga and Franklin as the the third top tackle on the market this offseason.
At 31 years old, Free has a couple solid years left in him. He’s been reliable over the past four seasons before missing some time this year due to knee, ankle, and foot injuries. Free allowed just three sacks of Tony Romo, which was tied for 15th-best among tackles, per Pro Football Focus.
5. Rodney Hudson
The premier center on the market this offseason, Hudson is expected to command a deal worth upwards of $7 million annually, which would set the bar for the position.
At 25 years old with extreme athleticism, Hudson is already one of the league’s best at the position. He ranked third behind the Jets’ Nick Mangold and Dallas’ Travis Frederick on Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro Team in 2014.
Still, $7 million per year for a center is a quite a check to write. It doesn’t seem like Kansas City will open their wallet for him, meaning he’s very likely to be swapping jerseys this spring.