Top free-agent offensive tackle options

The other day I laid out why the New York Giants need to upgrade at offensive tackle through free agency. If they don’t, they could end up in a similar situation to last season. And pretty much everyone can agree that didn’t work.

The Giants weren’t good enough on the edges with the combination of Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart and Marshall Newhouse protecting quarterback Eli Manning. They need an upgrade this offseason.

It is not going to be easy for general manager Jerry Reese. Quality left tackles don’t grow on trees. The draft is thin at the position, and, for the most part, they aren’t available in free agency.

Here is a look at the free-agent tackle options:

The best fit: Andrew Whitworth (Bengals)

Whitworth is the only upper-echelon left tackle who could hit the market this year. Sure he will be 36 this season, but he’s still performing at a high level. The LSU product is a three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, which includes selections each of the past two years.

Now, Whitworth makes the most sense for the Giants because he’s a proven commodity they know would be an upgrade, and his shelf life is somewhat in line with Manning. Of course, Whitworth won’t come cheap. It does help that at his age any deal probably wouldn’t be any more than two years, so it wouldn't involve a long-term commitment.

There will be competition for his services. The Bengals reportedly want Whitworth to return, but he is open to leaving Cincinnati after 11 seasons.

The top right siders: Ricky Wagner (Ravens), Riley Reiff (Lions) and Mike Remmers (Panthers)

These are solid but not spectacular right tackle options. Wagner is the better of the pass blockers coming off the best season of his career. Reiff or Remmers would instantly be the Giants’ top run blocker if he was added to the line. They would all be interesting solutions to the Giants’ tackle dilemma because they would keep Flowers at left tackle and would be rather costly for non-premium players.

Age isn’t much of a factor. Wagner and Remmers will turn 28 this season and Reiff 29. For offensive linemen, that isn’t a concern. They should have a handful of solid years remaining. None is ideal for the Giants, but they would be sufficient upgrades and improve the line for the 2017 season and beyond.

The injury risks: Matt Kalil (Vikings), Menelik Watson (Raiders), Sebastian Vollmer (Patriots), Andre Smith (Vikings)

Consider all four of these options crap shoots. Kalil missed most of the 2016 season following hip surgery and his uneven play at left tackle before the injury makes him a questionable starter for 2017, no matter where he lands.

Watson was also a high pick in the draft but has been hampered by a litany of injuries and inconsistent play. He was in and out of the Raiders' starting lineup most of the year.

Vollmer and Smith at least have a track record of playing at a high level. The problem is that neither has been healthy or done it in several years. Vollmer missed all of this past season with a hip injury. Smith missed most of the year with an elbow problem and was on the downside of his career anyway.

The backups: Marshall Newhouse (Giants), Gosder Cherilus (Bucs), Mike Adams (Bears)

Newhouse spent the past two years with the Giants and started 20 games at right tackle. He was originally signed to be a reserve swing tackle – which is probably his best spot – and even added guard to his repertoire this past season. He’s valuable insurance to an offensive line.

Cherilus and Adams could add depth, at best.

Keep eyes on: Ryan Clady (Jets), Russell Okung (Broncos)

These are players who could get cut for a combination of salary cap purposes and performance. There are a few of these each season. But really, they’re being released for a reason and are nothing more than temporary stopgaps.