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NFL free agency 2017: Brian Winters’ deal sets guard market

Expected annual salary of $8 million means prices are going up

NFL: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Brian Winters
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants will almost certainly be searching for ways to upgrade their offensive line for the 2017 season. With John Jerry a potential free agent, perhaps the Giants might intend to scour the free agent market for a replacement. If that is the case, the contract the New York Jets just announced for guard Brian Winters, reported to be four years at about $8 million annually, is sure to get their attention.

Winters, 25, is a four-year starter for the Jets but was really a middle-of-the-pack guard in 2016. His 77.1 Pro Football Focus grade placed him 32nd of 76 qualifying guards. Jerry was 34th with an overall grade of 77.0.

The Giants, of course, also have to begin considering the cost of a long-term deal for Justin Pugh. The Giants have a fifth-year option on Pugh for 2017 that carries a cap hit of $8.821 million.

The player who could be the top guard available on the free-agent market, Kevin Zeitler of the Cincinnati Bengals, had an $8.07 million base salary a season ago. Gregg Rosenthal of recently ranked the top 25 current free agents. Rosenthal ranked Zeitler No. 12 and said the 26-year-old is “set to make a lot more money than many players with a lot more name-brand value.” The only other guard on the list T.J. Yang of the Green Bay Packers, who placed 20th.