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Why is Austin Blythe the last Rams free agent standing?

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If the NFL actually does use the grades at ProFootballFocus, then don’t tell Austin Blythe. He might develop a complex about why he’s still a free agent today despite having a better 2020 PFF grade than all but one center who has signed a new contract this offseason. Is it his hair? His weight? People getting him confused with Blythe Danner, grandmother to the Goop empire?

Because surely teams would care about PFF offensive lineman grades, right?

The LA Rams have been exceptionally quiet in free agency, not making any new moves except re-signing Leonard Floyd, moving some money around, and adding DeSean Jackson on Sunday to take a roster spot from Josh Reynolds. But the Rams have stayed out of the center market, while seven other free agents at his position have changed teams and the Patriots retained David Andrews for four years and $19 million.

Should the Rams make no more moves, they’ll have a competition at the position, but there are still options available. Including Blythe.

The most expensive and highest-rated center this offseason was Corey Linsley, who left the Packers for the Chargers on a five-year, $62.5 million contract. Linsley had an 89.9 grade last season. Among the seven other centers to sign contracts, including Andrews, none has a higher 2020 PFF grade than Blythe’s 69.3. Though Blythe did crater with a 50.2 grade in 2019, he did post a 76.4 at guard in 2018, so you’d think he gets bonus points for versatility.

Not so in the mind of NFL teams, who aren’t willing to necessarily go to bat for PFF grades with their wallets.

  • Andrews, 67.7
  • Alex Mack, 65.9
  • Ted Karras, 65.3
  • Nick Martin, 56.1
  • Matt Skura, 50.3
  • Tyler Larsen, only played 35 snaps in the last two years
  • BJ Finney, no snaps last season and only 1,023 career snaps

Martin, Skura, Larsen, and Finney all signed contracts that essentially create depth and nothing more. Karras, Mack, and Andrews would all appear to be in line to start. Karras and Andrews both signed in New England however, so Karras will compete at left guard but might also prove to be the better option at center. In any case, the Patriots wanted two centers but most teams this offseason have wanted none.

Austin Reiter, who had a 70.9 grade while playing with the Chiefs last season, is also still a free agent. Joe Looney, who was on the other end with a 50.9 in Dallas, is also still out there.

One issue facing Blythe is finding any team that wants him as a starting center. After cutting Martin, the Texans went with Justin Britt, a player who posted a 62.0 grade in 2019 and sat out 2020. He surely wasn’t expecting to sign for $1 million, like Skura, Larsen, or Finney. But the only super apparent openings seem to be in Kansas City and LA, where the two free agent Austins have yet to re-sign.

Blythe might be able to do no better than compete for a job anywhere other than the Rams, but given the way his first week of free agency has gone, will he even be guaranteed a job snapping to Matthew Stafford? It seems his market was the one thing guaranteed to be blocked.