Could Evan Mathis, #69, be the solution to Miami's offensive line problem? Absolutely. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
It's time to get into the nitty gritty positions with free agency. We're beyond the flashiness of QBs, WRs, and TEs. The next few weeks will be focused along the offensive and defensive lines. First up are guard candidates. Most people know the top candidates, but they're a bit pricey. Let's get to all of them.
Carl Nicks: He will probably command the most money of any guard in free agency. His teammate, Jahri Evans, signed a 7-year deal for over $56 million just last year. Look for Nicks to get a deal close to that number. Such a deal would average just over $8 million per season.
Ben Grubbs: If Nicks was considered the number 1 option at guard, consider Grubbs to be number 1A. Being that Grubbs is almost as equally talented as Nicks, expect a contract that is almost equal as well. Quality can be expensive.
Jake Scott: An option I've touted for awhile now. He's solid, but not elite. He is a very good pass protector, but has always been just average at run blocking. In the past 3 years, he has surrendered only 3 sacks. He's also a tough and durable player. He even finished as the seventh ranked guard in the NFL in 2011. For comparison, Grubbs ranked 12th. Scott would be a solid option and could be had for approximately $4-6 mil per year. While Nicks and Grubbs would offer more, you could get Scott plus another free agent for the price of one elite guard.
Evan Mathis: An under-the-radar player by fans maybe, but the Eagles will be looking to keep him in the city by any means necessary. Mathis was dominant in the run game this year and easily ranked as the top run-blocking guard in 2011. Not only that, but he didn't allow a single sack the entire year, which is impressive when you have a QB like Michael Vick that will hold on to the ball for long periods of time. Overall, Mathis beat out Nicks pretty easily as the top ranked guard in 2011 based on Pro Football Focus. He may not reach the contract amount of Nicks or Grubbs, but he should get around $5-7 million per season. Unlike Scott, Mathis is a natural LG as well so for those looking for a way to move Richie Incognito to RG, Mathis could be the best way to do it.
Bobbie Williams: He's been consistently one of the best guards in the NFL, but he is coming off an injury plagued season that limited him to 9 games. Still, he only allowed a single sack and ranked better than any of Miami's guards. The big downfall? He'll be 36 in September.
Vernon Carey: Our own option if we wish to resign him. Carey played average this year, but continued to have problems with his legs. For those that think Carey played solid or very well, I'd have to disagree and say just average. He only allowed 3 sacks, which is average for a guard, but also allowed 7 QB hits, which is below average. While all the guards mentioned above were ranked in the top 25 guards (Williams at 23), Carey finished as the 44th ranked guard. Still, the big reason for moving ahead without him is that he just can't stay healthy.
Another option would be if Miami wished to sign a free agent center like Scott Wells from Green Bay or others like Matt Birk, Andre Gurode, Jeff Saturday, or Todd McClure and then move Mike Pouncey to guard. While that is an option, I consider it unlikely. When you have a solid center in place, the last thing you want to do is move them to another position. Center is just more valuable and all the players I mentioned above with the exception of Wells are in their final years.