Free Agency Preview: Offense

Posted Mar 10, 2014

As the 2014 free agency class is set to be unveiled on Tuesday, some of the bigger names on the offensive side of the ball have removed themselves from the discussion.

In a move that was widely anticipated, New Orleans utilized their organization’s franchise tag on TE Jimmy Graham, who caught 86 passes for 1,215 yards and a league-high 16 touchdowns. The San Francisco 49ers also pre-empted the free agent market for WR Anquan Boldin, who re-upped with the 49ers on Monday for two years and $12 million.

Beyond those names still lies a serviceable allotment of free agents on the offensive side of the ball.

The Rams could look to upgrade a number of positions via free agency, including along the offensive line. Much of the team need at that position could be alleviated by re-signing G/T Rodger Saffold, who is an unrestricted free agent after four seasons with the Rams. Both Head Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead have emphasized the desire to bring back Saffold, likely as a guard, for the 2014 season and beyond. Saffold’s ability to excel at multiple positions has increased his value entering the offseason.

“I’ve learned from people wiser than me that being versatile like that, to be able to play both guards and tackle, that’s a nice asset to have,” Snead said while meeting with media during the NFL Combine.

While the Rams would like to employ that versatility for the foreseeable future, other options are available should Saffold not return for a fifth season in St. Louis. Here’s a look at some of the top free agents at each offensive position:

Offensive Line
Aside from Saffold, other notable options at offensive tackle include veteran tackles Eugene Monroe, Jared Veldheer, Zach Strief, Anthony Collins, Austin Howard and Michael Oher, among others. Monroe, who is the most senior of this group, was arguably the Ravens’ best offensive lineman after being acquired from Jacksonville.  Oher has represented one of the most durable offensive tackles in the league during his five-year tenure with the Ravens, starting all 80 games at either left or right tackle. Oher, however, was supplanted at left tackle in Baltimore by Monroe following a trade from Jacksonville prior to Week 5.

Best of the rest:  G Zane Beadles, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, T Breno Giacomini

Wide Receiver
With Boldin crossed off this year’s free-agent class, Denver’s Eric Decker figures to be a sought-after commodity following a year in which he tallied 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Also heading this year’s receiver group is Seattle’s Golden Tate, who at 26 years of age, began to reveal the promise Seattle held for him when they drafted him out of Notre Dame in 2010. Tate led the Seahawks with 898 receiving yards in 2013.

Hakeem Nicks, who is coming off of his fifth season with the New York Giants, has seen his production lag a bit since registering consecutive 1,000-yard receiving years from 2010-11, still represents a downfield threat for teams thin at the receiver position. Nicks has averaged 14.9 yards per reception for his career.

Best of the rest: Julian Edelman, James Jones, Brandon Lafell, Emmanuel Sanders, Devin Hester

Tight End
With Jimmy Graham off the board, Jermichael Finley and Brandon Pettigrew represent the top pass-catchers at the tight end position. Having played in the pass-heavy offenses of Green Bay and Detroit, respectively, Finley and Pettigrew present viable options for teams in search of a tight end who can also stretch the defense lined up in the slot.

Best of the rest: Garrett Graham, Brandon Myers

Running Backs
With this year’s running back class unlikely to produce a first-round draft choice, teams in need of a feature back could look to free agency to build their backfield for 2014. Knowshon Moreno, fresh off a Super Bowl appearance with Denver and his first career 1,000-yard rushing season, heads this year’s free agent running back class. He also represents arguably the best receiver among free agent running backs, piling up 60 receptions for 548 yards last year.

Moreno is followed by veteran Maurice Jones-Drew, owner of three 1,000-yard rushing seasons among his eight years with Jacksonville. Jones-Drew saw his production rate take a steep decline in 2013, as he averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry.

Best of the rest:  Darren McFadden, LeGarrette Blount, Andre Brown, Rashard Mendenhall

Midway through the 2013 season, it would have been difficult to envision Josh McCown as one of the first names to come up under sought-after free agent quarterbacks. McCown, a  career backup with stints covering five teams over 11 NFL seasons, made the most of his opportunity in Chicago last year, when he was among the league’s best signal-callers over five starts in Jay Cutler’s absence due to injury.

McCown threw 13 touchdown passes, with just a single interception, while registering a passer rating of 109.0. That performance helped McCown position to potentially open a season as a starter for the first time since 2007, when he was a member of the Oakland Raiders.

A year after being replaced under center by Nick Foles in Philadelphia, Michael Vick will look to vie for a starting job once again in 2014. Vick, the league’s preeminent dual-threat quarterback in his 11 NFL seasons, saw his performance in the passing game make significant strides in his years with the Eagles, where he logged three of his four best passer ratings.

Also lobbying for a fresh start in 2013 is veteran Matt Cassel. Cassel, a 2010 Pro Bowler while with the Kansas City Chiefs, appeared in nine games for Minnesota last year, starting six. 

Best of the rest: Chad Henne, Josh Freeman