No matter how much it will fly under a lot of fans’ radar, there’s no question that most teams around the NFL will be looking to upgrade their offensive lines this offseason. There are no official league-kept stats to judge the performance of offensive linemen and a lot of fans overlook the play in the trenches, but there’s no doubt this is a critical part of the formula for any team’s success.
DOLPHINS OT SITUATION:
On the one side, you’re all set. Jake Long might not have been at his absolute best in 2011, but he’s not even close to being a concern. On the other side, there are some questions to be asked. Marc Colombo started all 16 games at RT for the Fins last year though it’s pretty tough to imagine a scenario in which the 33 year old comes back. The man who spent several seasons at that spot before last year, Vernon Carey, is a free agent, and could be re-signed if the Fins want a familiar option. Two other names to keep in mind: Lydon Murtha, who may very well have started last year if not for a training camp injury, and John Jerry, who filled in admirably for Long last season.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS:
Jeff Backus: He’ll be 35 in September, but Backus has had a very nice career for the Lions, starting every single game of his career, which goes back to 2001. Having grown up in Michigan, attended the University of Michigan, and played his 176 career games in Detroit, many expect him to re-sign with the Lions.
Demetrius Bell: Being limited to just seven games because of injury in a contract year is not what any player wants to do, but that was the situation for Bell this past season in Buffalo. A strong performer and a guy who turned a seventh round selection out of a small school into a solid NFL career, he will certainly get some interest on the open market.
Jared Gaither: A reserve last year in San Diego, Gaither played well in five games and might return to San Diego to take on a bigger role. He missed all of 2010 with a back injury but the big guy out of Maryland looks like he’s about to take the next step in his career.
Other tackles that are free agents include: Stacy Andrews, Kareem McKenzie and Max Starks.
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