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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Free Agent Stock Watch: OL Ereck Flowers

Since being drafted ninth overall by the Giants in 2015, offensive lineman Ereck Flowers has had an up-and-down career along the East Coast. The recent Commanders cap casualty is facing free agency for the fourth time in his career. 

New York drafted the standout tackle out of Miami to take over as its new blindside tackle. The former Hurricane had prototypical size, length, and strength, but struggled with technique and coachability coming out of school early. Despite holding his job as the starting left tackle, Flowers only graded out as the 54th-best tackle in the NFL through his third year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

After declining his fifth-year option, the Giants moved Flowers to the right side of the line to accommodate the addition of Nate Solder. They benched Flowers two games into his fourth year in favor of Chad Wheeler and, after failing to find a trade partner to offload Flowers, they released their former top-10 pick. Four days later, Flowers signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars, in response to Josh Wells getting placed on injured reserve. He started the remainder of the season protecting Blake Bortles‘ blindside.

As a free agent after his time in Jacksonville, Flowers landed a one-year deal with Washington. During camp, Washington moved the longtime tackle inside to left guard, where he would start and excel for the entire season. His renewed efforts at guard earned him a three-year, $30MM deal with the Dolphins following his stint in DC. After adding several linemen in the following offseason, Miami traded Flowers back to Washington the day before the draft in exchange for the two teams swapping seventh round picks. Flowers returned to his starting position at left guard and reportedly played well enough to warrant discussions of an extension, but, ultimately, the Commanders opted to release the seven-year veteran to clear an additional $10MM from their books.

It was expected that Flowers would find a new home relatively easily, considering that, despite his grades, Flowers has solidified himself as a starter at every stop of his career, finding a positional home in his last few years at left guard. Yet Flowers remains available, looking for the right fit for his new home. The top guard options have all found deals so far this year, from Andrew Norwell signing for $5MM annual average to Brandon Scherff signing a deal worth an average of $16.5MM per year.

Flowers would likely be looking at deals that align with the likes of other consistent starters like Rodger Saffold, Lucas Patrick, or Flowers’ former Hurricanes teammate Jon Feliciano. That is to say, he will likely end up signing a one- to two-year tryout deal for around $3.5-$6MM depending on how needy the franchise he ends up with is for an interior lineman. He’ll also have a little value added to his contract for the flexibility he provides as an option to play tackle, as well.

In terms of destinations, Feliciano’s former team, the Bills, doesn’t have a ton of depth on the interior behind Saffold and Ryan Bates. Their top backup is Cody Ford who was benched early last year. Dallas will have a competition for the left guard spot between rookie Tyler Smith and Connor McGovern, with Connor Williams signing with the Dolphins. McGovern struggled last year when moving from right guard to left and Smith played tackle at the collegiate level and may have difficulty transitioning inside. In Detroit, Halapoulivaati Vaitai‘s cap hit is becoming quite large and he is under contract through 2025. Flowers may provide a cheaper option at guard.

The team with the biggest need at left guard is likely Tennessee, which will aim to replace Saffold. Currently it’s looking like a battle between Aaron Brewer, who has six career starts in two years, and Jamarco Jones, who has seven career starts in three years in Seattle. The Titans also drafted Dillon Radunz, but they may want him competing for their open position at right tackle. Tennessee would be well-served to bring in Flowers as a proven starter at left guard over the options it currently has.

In the end, while maybe not living up to his potential as the ninth overall pick, Flowers has established himself as an effective starter in the NFL. His run of recent success was cut short due to the construction of his salary, but he likely won’t be down for long. Look for Flowers to sign a short deal for a couple million per year on a team that needs immediate help on the offensive line.

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