Which Teams Invested in the Offensive Line in 2022?

Jun 06, 2022
Which Teams Invested in the Offensive Line in 2022?

Every offseason, once the main part of free agency is over, I compile all the offensive line free agent signings to get a quantitative sense of which teams are investing in the trenches. 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 (net $ in) for each team.

Also check out: Which Teams Invested in Defense in 2022?

Note: I don’t think anyone else looks at free agency this way, but if they do, please let me know–I’d be interested to see their analysis.

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.

2019-2021 Overview

Before we get into 2022 free agency, let’s take a look at the last three years and see how free agency and the draft have impacted offensive line play. To measure offensive line play, I’ll focus on Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards (ALY) and Adjusted Sack Rate (ASR), which focus on the running game and passing game, respectively.

Eight teams spent more than a net of $10 million in the last three seasons, and those teams saw their ALY increase by 8.1% with an average ranking improvement of 6.5 spots. Those units saw their ASR decrease by 3.5% (which is good) with an associated ranking improvement of 1.0 spot, on average. In addition, all of those teams drafted at least one lineman in the first three rounds except for the 2021 Colts.

The 14 teams that saw a net decrease in spending of $6 million or more saw their ALY decrease by an average of 8.5% with a rankings decline of 7.4 spots. (Not good.) This group saw their ASR increase by 4.7% (which is also bad) with an associated ranking decline of 1.0 spots.

In summary, while there will be exceptions, teams that spend on the offensive line see improvement in these metrics while teams that don’t will see a decline, on average. It does appear that ALY improvement (or decline) is more predictable than the ASR metric. The takeaway here is that this process is more important for the evaluation of running backs than it is for the evaluation of pass protection for quarterbacks.

Below is the offensive line free agency table for 2022. 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.

2022 Net FA $ & Draft Capital Spent On the Offensive Line
Team Net # In Net $ In Rank Drafted In First Three Rounds Net Players In
CIN 2 $20,597,500 1 0 2
MIA 0 $17,745,000 2 0 0
PIT 2 $12,118,333 3 0 2
NYG 3 $10,537,500 4 2 5
CAR 1 $10,515,000 5 1 2
NYJ 0 $8,333,333 6 0 0
BUF 2 $6,022,500 7 0 2
DEN 2 $4,750,000 8 0 2
HOU 1 $4,250,000 9 1 2
BAL 0 $2,200,000 10 1 1
LV 1 $1,700,000 11 1 2
ARI 1 $1,187,500 12 0 1
CLE 1 $1,187,500 12 0 1
ATL 1 $1,187,500 12 0 1
SEA -1 $412,500 15 2 1
JAX 0 $0 16 1 1
PHI 0 $0 16 1 1
DET 0 $0 16 0 0
MIN 1 $0 16 1 2
LAC -1 -$1,187,500 20 1 0
KC 0 -$2,812,500 21 0 0
NE -1 -$6,000,000 22 1 0
TEN -2 -$6,305,000 23 1 -1
IND -1 -$7,407,500 24 1 0
TB 0 -$7,597,500 25 1 1
GB -3 -$7,772,500 26 1 -2
CHI -2 -$7,873,333 27 0 -2
LAR -1 -$8,750,000 28 1 0
WAS 0 -$9,687,500 29 0 0
DAL -2 -$14,017,500 30 1 -1
NO -1 -$15,000,000 31 1 0
SF -2 -$15,583,333 32 0 -2

A Few Takeaways

  • The Bengals (+$20.6 million) added guard Alex Cappa, tackle La’el Collins, and guard/center Ted Karras, who will add a lot of talent and experience to a unit that was decent in the run (15th in ALY) but brutal in pass protection (31st in ASR). They’ll join Jonah Williams to form a solid core. This is good news for Joe Mixon and the passing attack.
  • The Dolphins (+$17.7 million) were 30th in ALY and 19th in ASR, so they had some work to do this offseason. They added tackle Terron Armstead and guard Connor Williams. Armstead should really help in pass protection while Williams is a capable run-blocker and pass-blocker. These signings won’t turn the Dolphins into an elite unit, but they should be closer to mediocre now.

  • The Steelers (+$12.1 million) signed guards James Daniel and Trenton Scott, along with center Mason Cole to bolster a unit that finished 28th in ALY and 11th in ASR. Unfortunately, they lost guard Trai Turner who was arguably the team’s most consistent lineman last season. Pittsburgh didn’t draft a lineman in the first three rounds, so I’m expecting a modest improvement in 2022.

  • The Panthers (+$10.6 million) signed guard Austin Corbett and center Bradley Bozeman, but the key addition is probably tackle Ikem Ekwonu, whom they took with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Carolina was 25th in ALY and 27th in ASR, so they have a lot of room for improvement. This could be a mediocre unit in 2022, instead of a poor one.

  • The Giants (+$10.5 million) added guards Mark Glowinski and Jon Feliciano. They also spent big draft capital acquiring tackle Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick and guard Joshua Ezeudu in the third round. The Giants were 31st in ALY and 14th in ASR, so there is a lot of room for improvement, especially in the running game. These additions should help Saquon Barkley.

  • On the flip side, the 49ers (-$15.6 million) lost guard Laken Tomlinson and guard Tom Compton, and C Alex Mack retired, so San Francisco has three holes to fill in what was a solid unit last season (11th in ALY and 17th in ASR). They didn’t draft any linemen in the first three rounds but added tackle Spencer Buford in the fourth round and tackle Kalia Davis in the sixth round. These losses may affect Elijah Mitchell and Trey Lance.

  • The Saints (-$15.0 million) replaced tackle Terron Armstead with the 19th overall pick, tackle Trevor Penning. The unit was 27th in ALY and 23rd in ASR so the line may continue to be an issue in 2022.

  • The Cowboys (-$14.0 million) lost tackle La’el Collins and guard Connor Williams, though Dallas has depth–a few players ready to step into larger roles and they also added tackle Tyler Smith with the 24th overall pick. Dallas was second in ALY and ninth in ASR, so I’m expecting the o-line to remain elite in 2022.

  • The Bears (-$7.9 million) replaced guard James Daniels, one of their best lineman, with guard Lucas Patrick and didn’t use a premium pick on the offensive line, which was 23rd in ALY and dead last in ASR. It’s likely to be a rough year for the Bears, so we might need to downgrade David Montgomery and the passing game.

  • The Packers (-$7.8 million) were third in ALY and sixth in ASR despite losing David Bakhtiari for all but one game, Elgton Jenkins for half the season, and their rookie center, Josh Myers, for half the season. The return of these players should more than make up for the loss of center Lucas Patrick, tackle Billy Turner, and tackle Dennis Kelly.

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