The Jets have a problem on their offensive line, I don't think anyone can question that. Willie Colon is a free agent and should be allowed to walk, he is becoming less effective by the year and his penalties cost the Jets important yardage. On the other side you have a combination of Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi. Both have had some problems, but Oday is doing enough to warrant having the oppurtunity to compete next season.
We could choose to address the guard or tackle position in the draft, and I wouldn't be against that. However there comes a point where you need to open your wallet for a proven guard. Or at least a guard who has shown enough and has room to grow. There are several guards who are available in free agency but I'm going to list the three guards I'd like the Jets to target.
Mike Iupati - San Fransico 49'ers - UFA - 27
A highly sought after player, Iupati was drafted #17 overall in the 2010 NFL draft. Combining power with natural athleticism Lupati was an instant success in San Francisco and made the pro browl in 2012 and 2013. This year he has taken a step back in pass protection surrendering 4 sacks, 2 hits and 22 QB pressures, however his ability to create space in the run game make him an important cog on the offensive line. Not only does he block well at the line, his down-field blocking is excellent and with his athleticism and shifty feet, his ability to pull block will be a valuable asset to any team wanting to run the ball effectively.
Problems in pass protection have plagued Mike throughout his NFL career, last year PFF rated him -8.0 attributing 3 sacks, 3 QB hits and 19 QB hurries. However again it was his run blocking that separated him and earned him his pro bowl place. Having signed a 5 year contract with the 49'ers worth $18.25 million as a rookie and performing to a high level over the course of his career, he will be looking for a big contract from his next team.
The question is, will the 49'ers try to re-sign Iupati? The 49'ers have $149 million committed to the cap next year, a figure that is around $4 million over what the cap is expected to be. That obviously means they'll have some decisions to make regarding who they keep, who they re-structure and how they approach free agency. I don't know what Iupati will be looking for, but you have to imagine he'll be looking for between $6 and $8 million per year.
Orlando Franklin - Denver Broncos - UFA - 26
Franklin is a really interesting option because he was drafted as a tackle and played the 2011, 2012 and 2013 season at the right tackle position. However in 2014 he moved inside to left guard and has really flourished in his new role. Now Denver has a very good offensive line with the likes of Louis Vasquez, Ryan Clady and if fully healthy their line would be an elite unit.
The simple fact is that Franklin has been exceptional through 13 games this season and if this is his first year starting, it's appealing to think just how good he could become. He is a big man at 6'7 and 320lb's but like Iupati he has the athletic ability to block out in space and mirror any pass rushers with quick feet, but he also has the pure power to take on the bigger nose tackles and defensive tackles in the league.
Through 13 games this year he has allowed 1 sack, 2 QB hits and 6 QB hurries, elite numbers for any player, let alone one starting his first year inside.
Will the Broncos make an effort to sign Franklin? You have to imagine they will with how he's performed. However they do need to sign the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Von Miller and Julius Thomas to long term contracts, so they will need to be careful with their cap situation. If you offer Franklin the contract that offers long-term security, you could tempt him away from Denver.
Clint Boling - Cincinnati Bengals - UFA - 25
Clint was a 4th round pick in 2011, selected #101 overall. He signed a 4 year contract that expires at the end of the 2014 season. Clint is lucky that he finds himself on such a dominant line and he certainly doesn't have the quality of Iupati or Franklin but he is a cheaper alternative if we don't want to pay top $ for the other two. He has been succesful with his run blocking and draws a flag around once every 3 games. His pass blocking is solid without being spectacular, however Andy Dalton does tend to hold onto the ball a bit too long, similar to our own Geno Smith.
This year he has a positive grade for his run blocking, screen blocking and overall, however he has a negative grade in pass protection having given up 2 sacks, 6 QB hits and 8 QB hurries. He's young at just 25 years of age and he shows enough potential and quality to make me interested. Last year he didn't give up a single sack or QB hit in 788 snaps, so I'm not sure if this season is just a down season in that regards, after all he is only two years removed from having a +5.7 grade in the passing game.
I've seen Clint on numerous occasiona and always come away very impressed. As a young established guard with plenty of starting experience, we really could do with someone like him on our line. He has recently moved to right tackle after benching Marshall Newhouse.
If the Bengals wanted to sign Boling, they probably could and if he works out at RT, I imagine they will do all they can to re-sign him. However at the moment he is set to become a free agent and if he hits the open market, there is always a chance.