The Cleveland Browns have maintained a consistently average offensive line over the past several years. Although at times it looked like they might have had the potential to be the biggest strength of the offense and sustain success, they've yet to turn that corner.
On one side, the Browns have the best left tackle of this generation, Joe Thomas. In seven seasons: seven Pro Bowls, four first-team All-Pros, two second-team All-Pros, 112 starts without ever having missed a game in his entire career. The prototypical elite left tackle.
The only other piece on offense that has been around almost as long as Thomas is center Alex Mack. While there's some speculation about how that may change in the future depending on where Mack really wants to be, the Browns can keep him for at least another year having placed the transition tag on him.
Thomas and Mack have anchored the offensive line in Cleveland for the past five seasons. The rest of the line has remained underwhelming on good days and downright atrocious on bad ones.
Shawn Lauvao and John Greco are serviceable, but new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan may want more out of the position. To an even lesser extent, it's a similar situation with Jason Pinkston. Garrett Gilkey is a seventh-round project but is probably still worth keeping around.
If GM Ray Farmer is looking to improve at guard in free agency and is willing to spend for it, he could have his pick from another deep class. Can he manage to land this year's Eric Steinbach?
- Geoff Schwartz (27) KC – Schwartz has quietly been very good when given the opportunity. He missed the entire 2011 season after a hip injury in training camp. He looked to be back in good form last season with the Chiefs. The Browns' right tackle, Mitchell, is his younger brother.
- Jon Asamoah (25) KC – Asamoah was playing well for the Chiefs, but Schwartz was even better and took the gig in the final eight games. It was a surplus of talent at the position, for which some other team may reap the benefit of.
- Travelle Wharton (32) CAR – He's not a long-term answer, but he's still playing at a high level. He'll turn 33 in just a couple of months.
- Rodger Saffold (25) STL – Saffold is capable of playing guard and tackle, so he may end up being paid like the latter, but he excels more at the former.
- Willie Colon (30) NYJ – Colon, too, can play both guard and tackle. Despite his age, he's been very durable.
- Zane Beadles (27) DEN – Peyton Manning helps everyone on offense look good. It could end up landing Beadles a significant pay day.
Mitchell Schwartz appeared to have a very promising rookie campaign starting at right tackle, but in his second outing last season he took some steps back. However, there's not a lot of dependable depth after that.
Is Oniel Cousins secretly a saboteur sent by the Ravens to infiltrate Cleveland and leave the quarterback defenseless? When he's had to start at RT for the Browns in the past, the results were disastrous.
The pace at which the Browns approach the FA RT market could depend on the amount of confidence they have in Schwartz.
- Anthony Collins (28) CIN – Collins is another player that's done well when given the opportunity. He may offer much better value for the money than some of the other players on this list.
- Michael Oher (27) BAL – Being the primary subject of a major Hollywood blockbuster didn't stop Oher from fading into mediocrity.
- Zach Strief (30) NO – Strief is not quite good enough for left tackle but is more than sufficient on the other side.
- Austin Howard (26) NYJ – Howard is not as well-rounded as the others on this list, but he's still good enough to start.
Note the absence of Eugene Monroe, Jared Veldheer, and Branden Albert. These players are easily the three best offensive tackles in this year's free agent class, which also means they're more than qualified to play at LT and be paid as such.