One of the New York Giants' top priorities this offseason will be to improve their run game, and they're likely to address it in free agency. But while many of you want to talk about which running backs the Giants will target, I think you may be missing the point. The Giants like running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. And while they may go out and look for a veteran running back who can augment that pair and possibly help in the passing game, their primary focus is to improve the run-blocking effectiveness of their offensive line.
While the Giants plan to have Will Beatty back as their starting left tackle, Weston Richburg back as either a guard or (they hope) their starting center, Geoff Schwartz healthy and back to play one of the guard spots and Justin Pugh back as either a guard or right tackle, don't be surprised if the Giants add multiple pieces on their offensive line. Part of their issue there the past couple of years has been a lack of depth, and they don't want to keep getting caught short on the line.
With that in mind, here's a very short, partial list of potential offensive line targets in free agency:
Joe Barksdale, Rams tackle: This is a 6-foot-5, 326-pound giant who just turned 27 three weeks ago. He graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 10 tackle (and No. 3 right tackle) in run-blocking in 2014. If the Giants' plan is to get a mauling right tackle who would allow them to move Pugh inside to a guard spot, this is a guy to watch -- assuming the Rams let him hit the market, which is no certainty.
Bryan Bulaga, Packers tackle: Grades out better in pass protection, but he's no slouch as a run-blocker. Former first-round pick turns 26 in March and could leave Green Bay if the bidding for his services gets out of their preferred price range.
Doug Free, Cowboys tackle: He has rebounded from a rotten 2012 with two strong seasons at right tackle for Dallas, and was a big part of the league's No. 2 rush offense in 2014. But Free is 31 and therefore a bit older than the Giants' preferred free agents tend to be.
Orlando Franklin, Broncos guard: He has played tackle and guard in his career, and the Giants like that versatility in their linemen. Franklin is 27 years old, which makes him appealing as well.
Mike Iupati, 49ers guard: Turns 28 in May. Graded out as PFF's No. 2 run-blocking guard in 2014. Likely to be in demand.
Clint Boling, Bengals guard: He is quite young, as his 26th birthday is not until May. At 6-foot-5, 310, he's a bit smaller than those first two guards I listed.