Offensive lineman Orlando Franklin appears almost certain to leave the Denver Broncos via free agency. Could the New York Giants be a landing spot for Franklin, who has succeeded at both right tackle and left guard during his four-year career?
Franklin, 27, is the No. 2-rated free-agent guard, per Pro Football Focus. That is with good reason. Franklin has started every game he has played in since the Broncos drafted him in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and has missed just one game in four seasons. He started at right tackle his first three season, then moved to left guard in 2014. Here are his year-by-year PFF scores.
Pro Football Focus Scores
2014 (left guard) -- +15.4 overall (+9.0 pass protection, +9.8 run blocking) with one sack allowed
2013 (right tackle) -- +16.4 overall (+10.1 pass protection, +5.6 run blocking) with two sacks allowed
2012 (right tackle -- +19.1 overall (+12.7 pass protection, +6.7 run blocking) with five sacks allowed
PFF's Ben Stockwell wrote this about Franklin is previewing free-agent interior linemen:
Whether at guard or tackle Franklin will be a highly sought after free agent when the new league year rolls around. After an inconsistent start to the 2014 season at guard Franklin came alive after the defeat to the Rams in Week 11. With an increased focus on the ground game from that point on Franklin displayed a consistency as a run blocker that we rarely saw from him at tackle.
Whether at guard or tackle, Franklin has produced as a run blocker and pass protector in the three years since his 2011 debut. With versatility and an all round game there is even an argument to be made that Franklin is the most valuable free agent offensive lineman available this off-season.
Interestingly, Franklin took to Twitter Tuesday night to dispute the notion that he is definitely leaving the Broncos:
It's funny today I read an article saying that I said I would not be returning to the Broncos. I have no idea how I could say that.— Orlando Franklin (@OFranklin74) February 25, 2015
I'm in Jamaica been here for the last week. Was in cabo Mexico before that and Toronto Canada before that so I don't know when or how I— Orlando Franklin (@OFranklin74) February 25, 2015
Spoke with a reporter for them to report that.— Orlando Franklin (@OFranklin74) February 25, 2015
With the Giants, Franklin could go to right tackle with Justin Pugh moving inside. More likely since he has already played there, Franklin would be a natural fit at left guard. That would allow Pugh to stay at right tackle, where he wants to play and has done a good job during his two seasons. It would also allow Geoff Schwartz to play right guard, his natural spot and the place where he has had most of his career success.
The problem is cost. Franklin is reportedly looking for a deal in the $7 million dollar range annually. Per Spotrac, te highest base salary for a right tackle is currently the $4.9 million earned by Austin Howard of the Oakland Raiders. The highest cap hit is the $7.02 million Sebastian Vollmer costs the New England Patriots. Seven NFL guards carry a cap hit of $7 million or more entering the 2015 season. The highest base salary for a guard is the $6.8 million being pad to Jahri Evans by the New Orleans Saints.
Franklin, quite obviously, wants to be among the highest-paid players whether he ends up at right tackle or guard. Most likely, someone will oblige him.
Question is, can it and will it be the Giants? The Giants already have a substantial financial commitment at guard, where Schwartz is entering the second-year of a four-year, $16.8 million contract. His 2015 cap hit is $4.975 million. Can the Giants commit around $10 million in cap money to the guard spot?
Franklin has never been voted to the Pro Bowl or named All-Pro. The Pro Football Focus scores, however, make it clear that he is a well-rounded, top-tier offensive lineman who willl help whatever team he ends up with. He can pass block. He can run block. For the Giants, he would fit naturally into one of the two spots that appear to be question marks heading into next season.
After releasing Mathias Kiwanuka on Tuesday, the Giants have roughly $23 million in salary cap space based on an estimated cap of $143 million. It seems as though they will likely use about $15 million of that to franchise tag Jason Pierre-Paul.
Should they make a significant push to sign Franklin? Your thoughts, Giants fans?