In this edition of the Panther's free agent report, I will look at offensive tackle prospects that are out there to be had.
Let's start off with the biggest elephant in the room and what is going to happen to Jordan Gross? I am putting Gross on here as a prospect, because he is entering into the free agent market. If I am Dave Gettleman I am going to make this the number one priority in free agency even more so over Greg Hardy's demands and do everything within the constraints of the team to bring Gross back and convince him that he has a couple of more productive years left and that Carolina wants Gross to hold off retirement a little longer. Left tackles of Gross's ability don't just grow on trees.
Jordan Gross is coming off a Pro Bowl caliber of a season and has been the mainstay on the Panther's offensive line since being drafted by Carolina eighth overall in the 2003 NFL Draft. He has been the consummate professional in every regards to which every organization wants from their players. Gross is still a top 10 left tackle in the league and retaining his services based on his production are more paramount now if the team wants to continue building on last season's success.
Jordan Gross 2014 Season Per Rotoworld
Gross's current deal with the Carolina Panthers voids the 5th day after Super Bowl 48 and technically makes him no longer a part of this team and he becomes a free and clear UFA. (Not an idea that I personally like at the current time). If a deal is in the works between Gross and Carolina then this will most likely be the first free agent news we hear about at the start of free agency or even get wind of it before hand with sources closer to the team. When Gettleman and Gross sit down to talk about the finances of a new deal and Gross's future with the team, I am in the line of thinking of a deal in the neighborhood of 3 years 10 million dollars with a 5 million dollar signing bonus or a 5 million guarantee sprinkled in somehow. which ever the organization feels more comfortable with giving Gross.
Now let us look at a viable free agent pick up in Ryan Harris, OT Houston Texans. Harris is a swing tackle that has played both the left and right side OT positions throughout his career in the NFL. He measures in at 6' 5" and weighs in at 302 lbs. He is only 28 years old and been in the league for 6 seasons. Harris has played a starters role on the Denver Broncos the team that drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2007 NFL Draft, and with his current team the Houston Texans he has spent the last two seasons as a swing tackle. Harris has seen starting action at both of these stops and has filled in nicely when called upon. With Byron Bell (RFA), Chris Scott (UFA), and Travelle Wharton (UFA) all fixing to go through free agency themselves, Dave Gettleman will have to look to bring in some more bodies for the offensive line.
I found this little tidbit off information on Harris, Per Rotoworld http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nfl/4457/player
Harris, 28, played in 16 games last season, starting two. Pro Football Focus graded him out positively as a pass blocker and in the screen game, but as a slight liability against the run. Harris is an athlete whose natural fit is in a zone-blocking scheme. He'll likely serve as solid depth behind Derek Newton at right tackle.
Also found this on the Houston Texans official website
Started 34-of-46 career games in Denver
Has allowed just 3.5 sacks in his 26 career starts at right tackle
Allowed just 2.5 sacks in 2008 to help the Broncos set a franchise single-season record and tie for first in the NFL with only 12 sacks allowed
Harris is that low cost OT depth signing the Panthers can afford if they retain Jordan Gross (which I hope they do), that could come in here and compete for that staring RT spot assuming we let Bell walk. Harris played on a one year, $780,000 dollar salary last season and is a free and clear 2014 UFA. I think Harris could be signed here to a contact in the ball park of a 1 year $855,000 (league minimum for a 7 year vet) which Harris would be going into this season, with a $90,000 dollar signing bonus. Just enough to make the deal sweeter to him to not resign a one year deal with the Texans.
I know there are more well known OT's that could be had in free agency such as Branden Albert of the Chiefs, Micheal Oher of the Ravens, and Rodger Saffold of the Rams. None of which are realistic options for a team trying to have more salary cap solvency after this season. My take on this would bring in Ryan Harris and draft this organization's future OT's because in all reality there isn't that much to choose from in this years free agency class that would balance the cost of said players services to the productivity received by the teams spending the money for them. In turn we need to look at a player like a Ryan Harris that might not be the "top shelf liquor, but more on the lines of the best of the well drinks."