Beware the $7 million guard in free agency

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Those who followed Steve Hutchinson's messy departure from the Seahawks following the 2005 season might be interested in this cautionary tale about $7 million guards.

Five NFL guards were making that much money on average heading into this offseason. Their teams have won zero playoff games since agreeing to those contracts. The players are not to blame, obviously. Hutchinson has upgraded the Vikings' offensive line. But the next time you get excited about adding a guard in free agency, think of the Bills' decision to release Derrick Dockery two years into the seven-year, $49 million deal he signed.

Guards are important. They might not be that important, however. A quick look at the four remaining guards earning at least $7 million per year:

  • Alan Faneca, Jets: Good player, average team. His former team (Steelers) won the Super Bowl in its first season without him.

  • Leonard Davis, Cowboys: Good player, underachieving team. His former team (Cardinals) advanced to the Super Bowl with Reggie Wells and Deuce Lutui at guard.

  • Eric Steinbach, Browns: His former team (Bengals) is still struggling.

  • Hutchinson, Vikings: His former team has struggled without him.

A couple other guards are earning just short of that $7 million figure annually. The Giants' Chris Snee and the Chargers' Kris Dielman have rewarded their teams for re-signing them. The Rams invested more than $6 million per year in Jacob Bell last offseason, but Richie Incognito was their best guard.