Which Teams Invested in the Offensive Line in 2020?
Every offseason, once the main part of free agency is over, I compile all the defensive free agent signings to get a quantitative sense of which teams are investing on that side of the ball. One of the best measures of a player's value and ability is the contract that they sign, so I add up the average annual value for each team's free agents in (players the team signed) and free agents out (players signed away by other teams) to come up with a net dollar value for each team.
This year, I decided to go through the same process for the offensive line to see which teams invested there.
A team with a large positive number means that they brought in significantly more talent than they lost, and the team should be better up front. Conversely, a team with a big negative number means that they lost significantly more talent than they brought in, and the team’s offensive line should be worse. Quality coaching, good drafting, and the development of younger players can offset losses in free agency.
Last Season Overview
Before we get to 2020 free agency, let’s take a look at which teams invested in the offensive line in 2019.
- The five biggest investors were Buffalo (+$23.1 M, net of six players added), Atlanta (+$11.4 M, +2), Green Bay (+$6.4 M, +0), Houston (+$6.2 M, +1) and Cincinnati (+$4.6 M, +0). Those five teams saw their rankings in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards (run) and adjusted sack rate (pass protection) improve by an average of 3.5 spots. (These teams all used at least one draft pick inside the first three rounds on the offensive line as well.)
- The five biggest losers in offensive line free agency were Miami (-$14.4 M, net of three players lost), New England (-$13.6 M, +1), Kansas City (-$12.0 M, -1), L.A. Rams (-$11.0 M, -2) and Denver (-$8.7 M, -2). Collectively, these offensive lines were 6.8 spots worse in Football Outsiders’ ALY and ASR rankings.
- When we only look at teams that either gained or lost at least $6 million in offensive salary, the four teams that invested (Buffalo, Atlanta, Green Bay and Houston) were an average of 5.0 spots higher in ALY and ASR rankings. The six teams that lost at least $6 million in salary (Miami, New England, Kansas City, L.A. Rams, Denver and Carolina) were an average of 7.8 spots worse, so there may be something to this.
Below is the offensive line free agency table for 2020. I also included the number of draft picks used in the first three rounds on the offensive line to see which teams were using draft capital to shore it up.
|Team||Net # In||Net $ In||Rank||Drafted In First Three Rounds|
A Few Takeaways
- The Jets signed tackle George Fant, center Connor McGovern and guard Greg Van Roten, and drafted tackle Mekhi Becton No. 11 overall in an attempt to rebuild an offensive line that was 31st in ALY and 30th in ASR. This should benefit Le'Veon Bell and Sam Darnold, though it may take some time for the unit to gel.
- The Browns signed tackle Jack Conklin for $14 million a year and added another tackle, Jedrick Wills, No. 10 overall. The Browns’ offensive line (10th in ALY, 18th in ASR) was already decent, so this could turn into a very good unit in 2020.
- In the draft, the Dolphins added first-round tackle Austin Jackson and second-round guard Robert Hunt. They also signed guard Erick Flowers and center Ted Karras, so this unit (32nd in ALY, 29th in ASR) should look very different in 2020.
- In 2019, the Chargers were 13th in ALY and 9th in ASR, and the addition of tackle Bryan Bulaga should only help.
- The Titans (4th in ALY, 32nd in ASR) lost Conklin, but they replaced him with first-round tackle Isaiah Wilson.
- The Eagles (14th in ALY, 11th in ASR) lost swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to the Lions, and didn’t do anything in free agency or the draft to replace him.
- The Lions (20th in ALY, 19th in ASR) signed guard Vaitai, but lost guard Graham Glasgow, so that’s something of a wash. They also lost Ricky Wagner, who was signed by Green Bay, but replaced him with third-round guard Jonah Jackson.
- The Packers (5th in ALY, 10th in ASR) lost Bulaga and tackle Jason Spriggs, and signed Wagner for a net loss of $5.3 million. They didn’t draft an offensive lineman in the first three rounds. Unless someone steps up to replace Bulaga, this unit could take a step back.
- The Falcons (24th in ALY, 13th in ASR) lost guard Wes Schweitzer and tackle Ty Sambrailo, but added guard Justin McCray. They used a third-rounder to draft center Matt Hennessy. We’ll see if second-year players (and former first-rounders) Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary can improve and help take this line to another level.
- The Giants signed tackle Cameron Fleming but lost tackle Mike Remmers. They drafted two linemen, No. 4 pick (tackle) Andrew Thomas and third-round tackle Matt Peart. The Giants were 25th in ALY and 17th in ASR, so they should improve in 2020.
- Ke'Shawn Vaughn