With a thin free agent market for left tackles and only two tackles slated for the (late) first round, the Minnesota Vikings may have to get creative to fix their offensive line. One way to do that: Trade.
Teams are rarely willing to part ways with a left tackle on the trade market, but there are several players who either play for rebuilding teams, have an unmanageable cap hit or will be usurped by a younger player.
Cleveland Browns, Joe Thomas
Pro Football Focus rank: 5th
2017 cap hit: $10 million
Trade winds have calmed since the deadline last season, but the logic behind a Thomas move still remains: He is 32, under contract through 2018 and plays for a team that has just started a full rebuild. For whatever reason, Thomas has wanted to stick it out with the Browns, but he is already on the other side of his prime and has never been on a legitimately competitive team. Cleveland is not under any particular pressure to deal him as they have the most cap room of any team in the NFL. We saw the Browns trade for draft picks last year, would they do it again?
Philadelphia Eagles, Jason Peters
Pro Football Focus rank: 6th
2017 cap hit: $11.7 million
OverTheCap.com estimates that the Eagles have just over $7 million in cap space heading into this offseason, meaning they will be desperate for ways to create more money to spend. Releasing Peters or reworking his deal are also options, but letting a top-10 tackle walk is not ideal and Peters only ended up in Philadelphia because of a contract dispute with the Buffalo Bills way back when. Would a second-round pick get the job done?
San Francisco 49ers, Joe Staley
Pro Football Focus rank: 25th
2017 cap hit: $11.1 million
Staley is still a quality player, but he is 32 years old and has a contract that runs through 2019. That might not be idea for the 49ers, who have to tear it all down and build from scratch.
New York Jets, Ryan Clady
Pro Football Focus rank: 41st
2017 cap hit: $10 million
Reports have been out that the Jets could part ways with Clady after an injury kept him out for about half of last season. With just one more year on his deal, Gang Green might join the 49ers and Browns in a rebuilding endeavor and cut ties with anything that isn’t nailed down. While Clady’s play has faded with age, the price might only be a late-round pick as opposed to a valuable asset.
Miami Dolphins, Branden Albert
Pro Football Focus rank: 57th
2017 cap hit: $10.6 million
This season was the runaway worst of Albert’s career as his PFF score dropped from a 77.0 in 2015 to 42.2 in 2016. Some of that may have been caused by a wrist injury. Local analysts have been calling for the team to cut Albert because of his huge cap hit, but it would cost the team $3.6 million in dead money to release him. Miami would be better off finding a trade partner.