Free Agency Watch: OL options

Branden Albert, Austin Howard and Alex Mack are all slated to hit free agency in 2014. AP Photo, Getty Images

Is your team's quarterback running for his life here in the early going of 2013? Does your favorite team have a stellar line, but at least a hole or two that needs patching? In either case, it's never too early to look ahead to some trench reinforcements who may be available next offseason.

There's no denying the importance of pressure -- or, rather, a lack thereof -- on a quarterback's effectiveness, and our studies at PFF have shown that each position along the offensive line provides equally disastrous results when pressure is surrendered. So while the left tackles generally get a big chunk of the money, it may be time for a philosophical switch when it comes to offensive line construction. Perhaps teams need to monitor how each of their quarterbacks handle pressure from different angles to determine how the pieces are placed.

No matter the strategy, defenses are as versatile as ever, so hiding an inept player anywhere along the line is no longer an option. Through five weeks, the defenses appear to be getting the upper hand, as 13 offensive lines check in with a Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE) below 75.0; only four teams finished with a mark below 75.0 each of the last two seasons. With that in mind, market competition will be fierce for the league's best blockers, so here's a look at five players to watch this offseason.


Branden Albert, OT, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs' franchise tag-designated player this season, Albert will likely hit the open market this offseason, as No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher is waiting in the wings to move to his spot on the left side. The money may be too great to either slap Albert's way again or lock him up to a long-term deal, so it's likely that he'll be one of the best left tackles available.