Coming off arguably his most dominant year to date, Zach Strief is set to make a substantial amount of money by testing the free agent market this off-season.
At 6-foot-7 and 320 lbs. Strief plays with the frame of a left tackle and the physical nature of a right tackle. He’s spent eight years in New Orleans after being drafted by the Saints in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL draft, five of those years as a backup to veteran tackle John Stinchcomb.
In 2011 Strief took little time coming into his own as a starter, impressing teammates and the league alike in his first year at right tackle. After taking a step back (mostly due to injuries) in 2012 and allowing 12 sacks, he returned to form in 2013 only allowing three sacks.
He’s highly regarded in the Saints’ locker room, and was named as one of the two offensive captains in 2013 along with Drew Brees. According to ESPN’s pony tail enthusiast and resident Slayer fanboy John Clayton, Strief is a first-team All Pro at right tackle; and according Pro Football Focus, he’s the top right tackle in the entire NFL.
Yet – after all of that – he still only manages to scrape into the cover32 top 10 list for free agent offensive lineman. It is true that left tackles are ultimately more important than their right-sided counterparts, but what’s disconcerting is that Strief finds himself behind Raven’s right tackle Michael Oher.
Sure Oher may have the bigger name with his fantastic life story made into a popular movie, but as a player Oher has been inconsistent at best throughout his six years in Baltimore. It’s hard to believe that Strief would ever jump ahead of a left tackle in the rankings, however finding himself behind Oher seems to undervalue his importance to the Saints over the last three years.
If this is the way he is truly viewed by the league, then perhaps that will end up being a good thing for New Orleans. When it comes to offensive line play continuity is nearly as important as size or quickness, and being able to keep Strief is a priority outweighed only be locking down superstar Jimmy Graham.
In my mind, Strief is the sixth best free agent offensive lineman this year. To see where cover32 ranked the rest of league’s lineman, click here.
Oh, and if you can’t be bothered to click the John Clayton-related link above, here’s the greatest ESPN ‘This is Sportscenter’ spot of all time.