The Cleveland Browns entered the 2022 season expecting to have an offense anchored by one of the league’s best offensive lines.
Injuries, especially at the center position, had other ideas, but even with some issues the line finished ranked at No. 6 in the league in Pro Football Focus’ end-of-season rankings. The weak spot came at left tackle as Jedrick Wills Jr. took a step back by allowing career highs in sacks, quarterback hits and quarterback hurries.
The Browns are set at right tackle after signing veteran Jack Conklin to a new contract but have to decide by May on whether or not to pick up Wills’ fifth-year option.
No matter what decision the team makes regarding Wills, it is always a good idea to continue to invest in the offensive line. So whether they are looking for a starter to replace Wills, or simply adding depth, here are three free agents they might be taking a look at when free agency opens on March 15.
Jawaan Taylor – Jacksonville Jaguars
6’-5”, 314 pounds
NFL draft: 2019 Round 2, pick No. 35 (Jaguars)
Career Pro Bowls: none
PFF grade: 59.5 (overall), 75.9 (pass block), 39.7 (run block)
2022 season: 17 starts, sacks allowed: 5, 7 penalties, offensive snaps: 1,095
Barry Shuck: The Browns might now be secure with left tackle Jedrick Wills going forward, so Taylor could come in and fill that void. Extremely durable as he has started every game since coming into the league.
Jacksonville has stated they want Taylor back on a contract extension, the issue is their cap situation. Taylor grew up two hours from Duval County so he considered Jax home. He started Day 1 as a rookie and has blossomed. Last season he only allowed five sacks. Taylor will most likely be seeking top dollar, but Jax does not seem to be willing to meet his price range so he might have an easier time getting the deal he wants somewhere else.
2022 was definitely a breakout year for Taylor. ESPN has ranked him No. 14 on their top free agents' list. He is just 25 years old and his future appears bright. All of the learning curve to play at a high level in this league has already been done, so his best years are in front of him.
Contract Projection: Four years, $57 million ($14.25M per year); $33.5 million total guaranteed
Kaleb McGary – Atlanta Falcons
6’-6”, 306 pounds
NFL draft: 2019 Round 1, pick No. 31 (Falcons)
Career Pro Bowls: none
PFF grade: 86.6 (overall), 66.9 (pass block), 91.6 (run block)
2022 season: 17 starts, 6 sacks allowed, 4 penalties, 1,051 offensive snaps
Thomas Moore: The Falcons were in a similar situation with Kaleb McGary a year ago that the Browns currently find themselves in with Jedrick Wills Jr. as they were deciding whether or not to pick up McGary’s fifth-year option.
Atlanta took a pass and McGary responded with his best season and is now looking to cash in as a free agent. McGary finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4-ranked offensive tackle, and his run-blocking grade was only topped by Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers. That continued a nice trend that has seen McGary improve his run block every season, from a grade of 53.9 as a rookie to his stellar 2022 season.
McGary has not shown the same level of improvement as a pass blocker, however, as his rookie grade of 52.8 has only progressed to 66.9 this past season. That might work OK for Atlanta’s run-heavy offense, but it seems less than optimal for an NFL offense that likes to pass the ball more than just occasionally.
Given that the Browns just signed right tackle Jack Conklin to a new contract last fall, signing another right tackle in McGary and moving him to left tackle, or asking Conklin to make the switch, seems like more risk than the team would want to take on at the moment.
Contract Projection: Four years, $52 million ($13 million per year); $52 million total guaranteed
Kelvin Beachum – Arizona Cardinals
6’-3”, 308 pounds
NFL draft: 2012 Round 7, pick No. 248 (Steelers)
Career Pro Bowls: none
PFF grade: 70.6 (overall), 76.4 (pass block), 59.6 (run block)
2022 season: 17 starts, 5 sacks allowed, 7 penalties, 1,178 offensive snaps
Barry Shuck: Cleveland will need a possible starter or at the very least a swing tackle. Beachum fills either role. He is durable and the only player on the Cardinals offense to have played every game last year. He has had some tweaks to an ankle but played through it. In college, he never missed a game.
Beachum displays the necessary level of athletic ability with good footwork. He is quick off the snap and is able to get out front to gain position. He also shows smooth, controlled agility when engaging an opponent.
Contract Projection: Two years, $3 million ($1.5M per year); $2 million total guaranteed
Put on your GM hat. Which of these players profiled would you sign?
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