This isn’t the best year to be shopping for a left tackle, but at the same time, finding an upgrade over Byron Bell may not be that hard. Here’s a breakdown of Carolina’s best left-tackle options on the FA market and a look at the best options to get the line where Carolina need to become a top level team.
This vet is 33 years old and coming off micro fracture surgery. Although he has mentioned hanging up his cleats, maybe Dave Gettleman can convince him to play two more years. This option would just buy Carolina some time to find a LT in either FA next year or groom a guy from the draft. This sell may not be the hardest; this tackle is a man without a home, as the 2013 first round pick for the Tennessee Titans looks the part of his replacement. The big sell point here is the opportunity for a playoff run with the Panthers and the releived pressure of having a mobile QB, which takes a lot of pressure off a tackle in pass protection.
The 29-year-old vet has a fair amount of blindside protection and again would benefit from a running style QB compared to the pocket style of Phillip Rivers. He is not the best pass or run blocker, but he possesses solid ability in both (more of a midlevel guy in both categories). He would be a large upgrade over Bell. Again this would be a solid option that would give Carolina breathing room until they can find a more attractive option.
At 25 years old, he would be the best option if you ask me. He’s played very little time at LT, but 4 years on the right side of a pass happy Green Bay has helped Bulaga cut his teeth in pass protection versus some of the best pass rushers the NFL has ever seen (Peppers and Allen) 2 times a year. Not to mention, Green Bay regularly faces top level teams, since they are consistently atop their division. At 25, he can be a long-term option for Carolina. This sell is hard because convincing Bulaga to leave a Super Bowl caliber for the unproven Carolina Panthers isn’t the most attractive proposition. The Packers looking to keep Randall Cobb and desperately looking for help on defense, Bulaga’s position may be one of the more suitable to replace in the later rounds of the draft and or with a backup to save money.
Yes, I know he’s listed as a guard but he played tackle the last 13 games of the Broncos’ 2013 season—the year they went to the Super Bowl. This 27 year old’s benefits are much like Bulaga’s. As Peyton Manning’s RT, he spent a ton of time in pass protection. He has proven to be a very talented, versatile player. The Broncos need to resign several high-profile guys (Thomas and Thomas), he could be set to hit the market. Now this where this option gets weird. With this guy under contract, we would still need to draft a tackle in the first, but now he will have someone with great size, athleticism, and NFL experience (including playoffs) to compete with in training camp. This would take a lot of pressure off a rookie tackle prospect, shielding him from the pressures of necessity. Still Franklin could be a viable long-term player at either side!
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