Positional analysis: Offensive line

This is part five in a nine-part analysis of the Jets -- a position-by-position breakdown as we head toward the scouting combine and free agency:


2012 depth chart: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (starter), Matt Slauson (starter), Nick Mangold (starter), Brandon Moore (starter), Austin Howard (starter), Jason Smith, Vladimir Ducasse, Caleb Schlauderaff.

Overview: Opinions are all over the map. According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Jets' line ranked No. 3 in the league last season. Of course, if the line was so good, how did it surrender 11 sacks against the Chargers? Why did OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo get fired? Here's the truth: In 2012, the Jets' line wasn't as good as it used to be in 2009 and 2010, but it wasn't as bad as some portrayed it. They have a solid foundation, with Ferguson and Mangold. The organization is high on Howard, who, despite ups and downs in his first year as a starter, looks to be a keeper.

Free agents: Moore, Slauson, Howard (restricted).

2013 personnel preview: Howard will be back, but there's little chance of Moore and Slauson returning. It wouldn't be a total shock if they're both gone. The Jets won't pay big money for guards, so budget will dictate which direction they go. They groomed Ducasse last season to replace Slauson at left guard -- Ducasse played in 272 offensive snaps (25 percent) -- so you have to think he's the favorite. Ducasse isn't on scholarship anymore because his biggest ally, former GM Mike Tannenbaum, is gone. Moore, who will be 33, would be good on a short-term deal, but he likely will have suitors willing to offer more. There could be a stud guard waiting for them with the No. 9 overall pick -- Chance Warmack (Alabama). But it would be nuts to pick a guard that high.

Salary-cap situation: Ferguson ($10.7 million) and Mangold ($9.1 million) have huge cap numbers, so they could be asked to do simple restructurings. Ferguson did it a year ago, so it's Mangold's turn. He's also due a $3 million roster bonus in the coming weeks. They need to clear some room for Howard, who will command at least a second-round tender ($2 million).