Free-agent fit: Offensive line

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
5:00
AM ET
Tenth and final installment in a multipart series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 11.

Position: Offensive line

Players under contract for 2014: T Nate Solder, G Logan Mankins, C/G Dan Connolly, T/G Marcus Cannon, T Sebastian Vollmer, G Josh Kline, G/C Chris Barker, T/G Markus Zusevics, C Braxston Cave, T Jordan Devey, T R.J. Mattes.

Level of need: Moderate-to-low

Projected top targets: G Shawn Lauvao (Browns), G Shelley Smith (Rams), C Ryan Wendell (Patriots)

Why Lauvao fits: Entering the NFL as a third-round pick in 2010, he has starting experience (44 games), is 26 years old, and would add sturdy presence to any line at right guard.

Why Smith fits: A bit of an under-the-radar free agent who has reportedly drawn interest from multiple teams, he has good size (6-4, 312), is 26 years old, and possibly has some position flexibility. He entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick of the Texans in 2010.

Why Wendell fits: After starting at center the last two seasons for the Patriots, he knows the system and could vie to keep the job if a more lucrative market doesn’t develop for him elsewhere. Hard to imagine the Patriots extending themselves too far to retain him, but he still has value to the team.

Other names of note: T Branden Albert (Chiefs), G Zane Beadles (Broncos), OT Anthony Collins (Bengals), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (Packers), OT Austin Howard (Jets), G Charlie Johnson (Vikings), G Shawn Lauvao (Browns), OT Eugene Monroe (Ravens), OT Michael Oher (Ravens), OT Roger Saffold (Rams), T/G Will Svitek (Patriots), OT Jared Veldheer (Raiders), OT Eric Winston (Cardinals),

Franchise tag: None.

Transition tag: C Alex Mack (Browns)

Market conditions: Strong at the tackle position, where early free-agent movement is expected. It is also especially strong in the draft at tackle, with fewer top prospects among interior linemen but some solid depth starting in the second round range.

Questions to answer at the position: How will the Patriots address the center spot? How is starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer’s recovery progressing from a broken ankle? Is Marcus Cannon a better fit at right guard or right tackle?

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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