Usually teams take hits in free agency. But at this time of year, positions do.
Already, the top two prospective free-agent offensive tackles have been taken off the market with Carolina’s Jordan Gross signing a six-year contract that pays him $31.5 in the deal’s first three years and Miami’s Vernon Carey signing a six-year, $42 million deal.
Now, the two top remaining free-agent offensive tackles are expected to be Jacksonville’s Khalif Barnes and New Orleans’ Jon Stinchcomb. Interestingly, each is a former second-round pick and each has starting experience. Barnes has started 57 of his 60 NFL games, Stinchcomb has started 48 consecutive games for the Saints. Barnes is only 26 years old, Stinchcomb is 29 years old. Barnes plays left tackle, Stinchcomb right.
What’s interesting about Barnes hitting the market is that quality left tackles rarely hit the market. In recent years, teams have extended the contracts of left tackles such as Chris Samuels, Levi Jones, Bryant McKinnie, Jeff Backus, Michael Roos, Jason Peters and Flozell Adams. The last true starting left tackle to hit the market was Wayne Gandy in 2003, when he signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Saints. Now Barnes will become the first full-time left tackle to become a free agent in seven years.
Though the tackle market already has been diluted, it is hardly finished. There still are some options for teams.