Terron Armstead is the clear No. 1 option in a suddenly shallow pool of left tackles available in NFL free agency. With the Chiefs and Jaguars franchise-tagging Orlando Brown and Cam Robinson, respectively, Armstead should have his pick of offers next week. Let’s break down some of his best landing spots, including the Dolphins, Bengals, and Ravens.
Terron Armstead’s free agent overview
Armstead looks poised to move on after nine solid-to-at-times-spectacular seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2013, Armstead has made three Pro Bowls and was named second-team All-Pro in 2018.
Armstead, who turns 31 in July, just finished up a five-year, $65 million contract that gave him $68.1 million in career earnings. Armstead is the No. 6 free agent on PFN’s post-franchise tag deadline list of the Top 25 Free Agents remaining, a reflection of his ability but not his availability. Knee and elbow injuries kept Armstead out of nine games in 2021. The next time he plays in a full regular season will be the first time.
Armstead’s best landing spots
Nonetheless, Armstead should have a robust market. An exit from New Orleans seems inevitable. Still more than $40 million over the salary cap with less than a week before the start of the league year, the Saints simply don’t have the resources to bring Armstead back.
That’s not the case, however, for the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens, who have a combined $105 million in cap space. Coincidentally, those three teams are where Armstead best fits.
No rational person would argue the Dolphins don’t need Armstead. They had the worst group of tackles in pro football in 2021. And with nearly $50 million in cap space even after franchise-tagging Mike Gesicki (and even more if they cut Jesse Davis), the Dolphins can afford him.
But the Dolphins have more to offer Armstead than a big sack of money. They would have likely made the playoffs last year with better coaching and a better offensive line. Mike McDaniel looks to have fixed the former by assembling a highly competent offensive staff. And Armstead would go a long way towards fixing the latter.
Very seldomly does a team one stop away from a world championship have over $35 million available to spend in free agency a month later. But that’s the benefit of having a star quarterback on a rookie contract. Joe Burrow isn’t eligible for an extension until 2023, so the window for totally loading up the rest of the roster is now.
Priority No. 1 this offseason is making sure Burrow’s third season doesn’t end the same way as his first two — with a knee injury. He simply took way too many hits in 2021. Burrow was sacked 70 times in 21 games — and the offensive line was a major reason why. The Bengals ranked 30th in pass-block win rate (49%). Armstead would be an instant upgrade and could chase a ring in the process.
The Ravens already have a big-money left tackle in Ronnie Stanley. That’s not the same as having a left tackle they can trust. Stanley has appeared in just seven total games the last two years due to a significant ankle injury. While he insists he’ll be ready in 2022, is that a gamble John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta are willing to make?
We saw what happens when Stanley is unavailable. The Ravens were forced to use late-stage Alejandro Villanueva on the left side, and the results were predictably awful. Ravens quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, and Josh Johnson were sacked a combined 57 times. And Jackson missed the season’s final four games due to injury.
The Ravens could sign Armstead, pair him with Stanley in some combination on the offensive line, and go a long way in fixing their biggest weakness.