Longtime starters among free agents to watch

We’ve all seen the injury bug strike various teams, and become particularly acute for certain teams at certain positions (Seattle’s offensive line, Philadelphia’s tight ends and offensive line, the Giants’ front seven). It’s part of the deal that comes with playing tackle football, and as we get closer to the 53-man roster cut downs, more movement is natural.

League execs and agents are mentioning three positions where needs seem to be most acute — offensive tackles, interior defensive linemen and linebackers. To that end, there are some players who have performed at a high level in the past who are being monitored closely by several times, and, all three could find themselves starting games again.

Offensive tackles are seemingly always in short supply, and veteran free agents Mark Tauscher and Levi Jones are longtime starters. Tauscher is coming off surgery, but is cleared to play and brings a pedigree of steady and heady play from his time in Green Bay. Jones’ attitude has come into question in the past, but when he’s on, he is good. Both of these players would be an upgrade for several teams over what they have at that position right now.

While the Seahawks are talking as if future Hall of Famer  Walter Jones could be back in 4-6 weeks, league sources say it could end up being a much longer, perhaps season-ending situation, given where Jones is at this stage of his career. New Orleans is hoping to get LT Jamaal Brown back from a sports hernia, but that can be a tricky injury with a long recovery. Philadelphia, despite its offseason acquisitions, might end up having a need.

Oakland, Carolina, Detroit and Jacksonville are among the teams looking at defensive linemen. Kevin Carter, who to this point has opted not to play in 2009, is someone several teams covet, according to league sources. The 35-year-old ended up starting last season for Tampa again, and New England — a club with a deep rewarding history of finding success with older defenders — is among his suitors. Should Carter opt to play, he is someone who could make an impact.

A few teams are well stocked with linemen — Baltimore and Miami come to mind — and I’d expect them to field calls from other teams about acquiring some of their talent.  Bill Parcells and Ozzie Newsome know the value of stocking up on guys in the trenches, however, so I wouldn’t expect them to be handing out any gifts.

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