Prior to the start of free agency, I flirted with the idea of the Cleveland Browns signing the best available offensive guard, Louis Vasquez. The Browns did not end up adding any prominent guards in free agency or the draft. It was not a top priority, but it would have enhanced an already-promising unit.
Just how promising is the perception about the Browns' offensive line? Back in January, we posted a link to rankings from Pro Football Focus, which ranked Cleveland as having the NFL's 5th best offensive line. Last week, Evan Silva of NBC Sports compiled his own rankings and gave the Browns almost just as high of a ranking at No. 6 in the NFL:
6. Cleveland Browns (5)
2012 Run Block Rankings: 14, 20
2012 Pass Block Rankings: 5, 12
LT: Joe Thomas
LG: Jason Pinkston
C: Alex Mack
RG: Shawn Lauvao
RT: Mitchell Schwartz
Super Sub: G/T John Greco
Overview: An immobile rookie quarterback and injured tailback didn't help Cleveland's rate stats last season, but this is one of the most promising young lines in the league. Perennial All-Pro left tackle Thomas is the group's elder statesman at age 28. Pinkston, 25, Mack, 27, and Lauvao, 25, form an athletic and physical interior. Pinkston and Lauvao are backed up by Greco, a 28-year-old who can play both guard positions and blocked effectively in ten 2012 spot starts. Last year's 37th overall draft pick Schwartz was a top-three pass-protecting right tackle as a rookie, according to Pro Football Focus' ratings. If new coach Rob Chudzinski can work some Derek Anderson magic with Brandon Weeden, this Browns offense could take off in 2013.
Denver, which was the team that added Vasquez, was up at No. 3 overall.
Last week at Browns OTA's, Jason Pinkston made his long-awaited return to practice, but will have to work his way back into the starting lineup. Also, in a unique twist, Shawn Lauvao saw some reps at left guard, with John Greco at right guard. There are a couple of undrafted free agents (such as OT Chris Faulk) who could have a lot of promise, too, which would strengthen the depth of this unit tremendously. Besides Pinkston's scare last year, Cleveland's offensive line was very healthy in 2012.
Side note: The two pass- and run-blocking numbers from Silva's report are 2012 rankings from PFF and FO. It is interesting how PFF has the Browns significantly higher in both categories than FO.