Guard and centers are not the flashiest positions but they are the next area up for review for the grades and needs series. Let’s take a look.
Green Bay Packer: A-
The Packers cut Josh Sitton in August but didn’t miss a beat even though Sitton was the 10th ranked guard in the league. TJ Lang had a great season for the Packers (8th ranked guard) but is a free agent and was injured in the NFC Championship game. Lane Taylor was an average player but has room to grow with experience. JC Tretter was good at center but injured during the season and gave way to Corey Linsley. Linsley was the 12th ranked center after missing the first 6 games of the season. Green Bay got good interior offensive line play but Lang and Tretter as free agents create some needs for the Packers.
Chicago Bears: A
Sitton was the 10th ranked guard and Kyle Long is a good right guard. Long had a down year and got injured but can still be a very good player for the Bears. Long and Sitton signed new deals this past year. Cody Whitehair was a 2nd round rookie who played well thrust into the center role. Whitehar was the 6th ranked center in the league and benefited next to Long and Sitton. Jordan Howard had a big year running the ball due in part to his strong interior offensive line for the Bears. Ted Larsen was average filling in for Long and will be a free agent. 3rd round pick from 2015, Hronnis Grasu was injured in training camp. Grasu will provide depth upon return. The Bears need one backup guard only this offseason.
Travis Swanson had a good season but missed the final four games and the playoff game with a bad concussion. Swanson finally had turned the corner for the Lions at center in his third year. Larry Warford had a good year at right guard but will be a free agent for the Lions. The Lions have a decision to make with Reiff and Warford both free agents.
Laken Tomlinson struggled in his second year. Laken looked solid in his one game at right guard but struggled at left guard and was benched for Graham Glasgow. Laken is solid in pass blocking but really struggles as a run blocker.
Glasgow was solid at left guard but struggled at center taking over for the injured Swanson. Joe Dahl didn’t see much action but the Lions are high on the 5th round pick from 2016. Detroit will need one starting guard if they don’t re-sign Warford. Left guard should be set with Glasgow with Laken Tomlinson and Joe Dahl as backups. Center is hopefully set with the return of Swanson but concussions must be monitored this offseason.
Detroit had run game woes but that was due to running back injuries. Left guard was a weak spot in run blocking but Graham Glasgow can improve in year 2. The Lions could re-sign Warford or look to upgrade in free agency or the draft.
Minnesota Vikings: D
Joe Berger had a good year at center and guard. Alex Boone was average as a big time free agent pick up at left guard. Brandon Fusco struggled and was cut after the Super Bowl. Mike Harris missed the entire year with a mysterious injury and was cut last week. Willie Beavers struggled in limited action. The Vikings need one starting guard and to upgrade their backup guard and center situation. Minnesota needs three new starters on the offensive line at right guard, right tackle and left tackle. Nick Easton struggled for the Vikings at center.
There are plenty of free agent guards and centers available this offseason.
Kevin Zeitler was the 7th ranked guard in the league and will be a free agent. The Bengals may try to keep Zeitler but if he hits the open market then the Packers, Lions or Vikings could try to upgrade by signing Zeitler.
TJ Lang and Larry Warford could re-sign with the Packers and Lions. They will be valued on the open market across the league. We’ll see if the Packer or Lions shake up their lines.
Chance Warmack is a former 1st round pick that played well in his final year with the Titans. Ronald Leary is a good guard for the Cowboys but Dallas has La’el Collins to play left guard. Luke Joeckel and Jahri Evans would be intriguing players in the North. Brandon Fusco has had good seasons but struggled the last two years with Minnesota. Some team may take a chance on the experienced Fusco.
JC Tretter is talented and the Packers already have Linsley. We’ll see if the Packers give Tretter starter money or if he plays elsewhere in 2017. Joe Hawley and John Sullivan have experience but aren’t very good the past few seasons. AQ Shipley had a nice season with the Cardinals this year. Brian Schenke is a young talent that needs a change for scenery.
There is plenty of help in free agency for interior offensive linemen.
Forrest Lamp (Western Kentukcy), Dan Feeney(Indiana) and Dorian Thompson (Pitt) are the top guards available.
Ethan Pocic (LSU), Pat Elflein (Ohio State) are the top two centers.
We’ll see if the North use free agency or the draft to find new guards and centers.
The Vikings need a right guard and depth help. The Packers and Lions will need a right guard if they don’t re-sign their starters. The Packers could need depth help if JC Tretter earns a starting job elsewhere. The Bears need one backup guard only and have the best interior situation in the North.