The St. Louis Rams started off the 2013 free agency by targeting one of the biggest names out there: left tackle Jake Long.
After days of courtship – and stacks of steak dinner bills – Long seemingly just teased the Rams and tricked them into free meals. So with things not looking so good, I thought it'd be a good idea to take a look at some formidable options at tackle.
**Writer's note: I used the Pro Football Focus player grades as references. I don't know what criteria they use to arrive at their ratings, so don't blame me.**
2012 Grade: +28.2
New England's Sebastian Vollmer is my favorite among the free agent tackles. For starters, Vollmer is relatively young; he will be 29 at the start of the season. He also brings some flexibility in terms of which side of the line he can play, having played five games at left tackle.
As a blocker, his strong suit is the passing game. He scored a +15.7 grade from PFF. He's also no slouch when it comes to opening up holes for running backs, he had a +5.8 rating in that regard.
Vollmer would be a very good consolation price for the Rams if they do not win the Long Sweepstakes.
2012 Grade: +26.9
Back the in '09 draft, the Rams chose to go with another Smith (first name Jason) over the Alabama-product. His disappearance during the combine and certain character issues allowed him to slide – gasp! – to the No. 6 spot to the Cincinnati Bengals. Looking back, the Rams chose the wrong Smith – Jason is also a free agent, but I doubt he gets any phone calls.
Smith is an above average tackle, and as a right tackle he's perfect. His strength is run blocking. He is a mauler. PFF gives him a run blocking rating of +10.6. He has a +13.7 pass blocking rating, which is good. He isn't the best at pass protection but, at right tackle, that is not what team's look for.
Character concerns can drive his price down, which is a good thing for a team like the Rams. With coach Fisher and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, I doubt Smith's issues will be a problem.
2012 Grade: +15.0
During last year's free agency period, the Rams pursued Winston. He, instead, chose the Kansas City Chiefs. Fast forward a year and Winston finds himself in search of a new team (again) after being released.
Winston does a little bit of everything; He has a pass blocking grade of +8.0 and a run blocking grade of +8.8.
Fisher & Co. kicked the Eric Winston tires a year ago. Wonder if the team will be interested this time around.
2012 Grade: +5.6
McKinnie is the oldest of the group at 33 years old. So, obviously, he is just a stop gap solution at the tackle position.
His PFF grade is reflective of his seldom use during the regular season. He really didn't start playing almost all the offensive snaps until the last week of the regular season. He played a vital role on the Raven's road to the title. He grades better at pass blocking (+2.3) than as a run blocker (+1.5)