At the epicenter of a successful team lies a strong offensive line. Though protecting the quarterback comes as the unit’s main purpose, injecting life into the run game and providing lanes for plays to develop come at ease with a strong front five.
In recent months, the Bills offensive line has taken a toll. With the retirement of Eric Wood due to unforeseen circumstances, the trading of Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals, and the roller coaster that was the Richie Incognito retirement now leaves the Bills with a lackluster lineup on the starting o-line.
As of now, the Bills lack the veteran presence on the offensive side of the ball that can be extremely helpful come the later months of the season. Given how the entire structure of an offense revolves around the effectiveness of an offensive line, Buffalo may want to pursue some of the top free agents still available going into the season:
OT Don Barclay
Barclay mimics a Swiss-army knife on the offensive front. Being able to slot in to different positions and packages has built a strong reputation and comes with experience. The former Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions lineman brings with him some questions about his health given his previous concussion.
Placed on injured reserve by the Lions on December 26th, 2017, the looming question regarding Barclay is if he is fit to play, or if he wants to play. If Buffalo can land a visit from Barclay, the entire offensive line may breathe a sigh of relief. Currently, there are few players on the Bills roster who have the experience or the will to take on multiple positions. Barclay comes as the fix for that.
OT Chris Clark
Signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in the 2008 season, offensive tackle Chris Clark spent two years on the Vikings practice squad before landing in Denver for five seasons and 69 games with the Broncos. After being traded to the Texans for a late-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft, Clark would be placed on the injured reserve late in the 2017 season.
The now 32-year-old free agent is coming off an ankle injury in 2017. He has played right and left tackle positions.
OT Derek Newton
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, Newtown suffered patellar tendon tears in both knees during Week 7 of the 2017 season after becoming the team’s starting right tackle for 68 games. Proceeding to go through rehab and the necessary steps to regain his strength and stability, Newton would go on to fail his team physical in April as Texans team doctor Dr. Walter Lowe deemed he was not fit for play. A second opinion gave him the green light, but he remains unsigned and he is pursuing a legal case against the Texans, who owe him a $500,000 bonus if he can pass a physical.
OG Luke Joeckel
Drafted second overall in the 2013 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Luke Joeckel started in 39 career games for the Jags. Joeckel’s efforts on the Jag’s front caught the attention of the Seattle Seahawks who signed him to a one-year, $8 million contract to come to the Northwest.
In his one year with the Seahawks, Joeckel was a part of a lackluster Seattle offensive line that was the talk of the team all season. Starting in 11 games while in his new threads, the former Texas A&M Aggie tried to find the same success he had in Texas and Jacksonville but a knee injury would cut his season short.
During his career, Joeckel has played every position on the offensive line except for center.
OG J.R. Sweezy
Former Super Bowl guard J.R. Sweezy has been one of the large names that have yet to be signed. Changing climates drastically from Seattle to Tampa Bay and embarking on a new beginning with the Buccaneers, Sweezy hit the jackpot, signing a five-year $32.5 million contract in 2016. After not appearing in a game in 2016 following back surgery, Sweezy started in 14 games for the Bucs before sustaining another injury in December of 2017.
OG Jahari Evans
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL draft, Jahari Evans spent a successful 11 years with the New Orleans Saints. Earning Pro-Bowl selections form 2009-14 and picking up some First-Team All-Pro nods along the way. Evans was one of the best contributors on the offensive line for the Saints, starting in 169 career games for the gold and black while adding a Super Bowl championship in 2010. He played for the Packers in 2017.
OG Alex Boone
Boone spent a total of six years in the San Francisco Bay area with the 49ers racking up a handful of starts along the way. Appearing in 77 games for the 49ers, Boone played mostly right guard for the team. Parting ways with the 49ers in 2015, he was subsequently signed and cut by the Detroit Lions, and moved on to the Vikings. Finding success in Minnesota, Boone signed a four-year $26.8 million dollar contact but would only be in town for one of them. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals for one season.