Free-agent preview: Offensive line

Free-agent preview: Offensive line
March 7, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Could Rich Ohrnberger find himself protecting Tom Brady once again? It's a move that makes sense.


This week, we’ll have an overview of the free agent class at some positions of need for the Patriots. Today, offensive line.
 
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Alex Mack, C, Browns, 28. 6-4, 311.
The Browns center was given the transitional tag so he is, in essence on the market. The Browns do have the ability to match any offer made to Mack. They should have just franchised him, but whatever. Anyway, Mack is going to be good for a while. Patriots center Ryan Wendell went downhill in 2013 and the Patriots have to be concerned that he may have already plateaued. Center is a vital position for a run-oriented team like the Patriots. Chasing Mack would be an aggressive play.
 
Travelle Wharton, G, Panthers, 33, 6-4, 315
Wharton is an older guard mulling retirement. Brian Waters was the last guy the Patriots did that dance with. It worked for a year then became a mild pain in the posterior. The Patriots certainly aren’t going to be inclined to look at plus-30 guards in free agency.
 
SENSIBLE PLAY
Rich Ohrnberger, C/G, Chargers, 28, 6-2, 300
A former Patriot who’s been with the Cardinals and Chargers as a backup and spot starter, he played well enough in relief of Nick Hardwick last season to indicate he’d be a terrific fit back in New England. With injury issues to Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins cropping up and the dipping play of Wendell, Ohrnberger would be a smart play.
 
TAKE A FLIER
Geoff Schwartz, G, Chiefs, 27, 6-6, 340.
Schwartz is going to be pricey but he can play either side and also kick out to tackle. If the Patriots want to move on from Connolly and reallocate their money to a younger player, Schwartz would make sense. 
 
THE OTHER GUYS
When we talk about the Patriots offensive line, it’s not the edges that are a concern, it’s the interior. Logan Mankins is 32 and has taken years of punishment. Ryan Wendell had a down season at center and Dan Connolly is in the last year of his deal and carrying a big cap number. The Patriots have always been able to make offensive linemen when Dante Scarnecchia was in charge. We’ll see if that continues. If the Patriots dip their toe in free agent waters at either guard or center, here are some names:

Kevin Boothe, G, Giants, 30, 6-5, 320

John Jerry, G, Dolphins, 27, 6-5, 335

Zane Beadles, G, Broncos, 27, 6-4, 305