2020 NFL Free Agency: Best available free agent offensive guards, centers led by Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff

We've already spent some time detailing the top available tackles on the market this offseason, so today we're going to kick inside and take a look at the guards and centers. This group is a bit stronger at the top, with a few of the very best interior linemen in the league actually up for new deals. 

The issue is that those players seem unlikely to change teams (Joe Thuney) or have dealt with injuries in the recent past (Brandon Scherff). Still, that trio leads what looks like a pretty solid class of guards and centers that will be able to help the teams that really need an infusion of reliable talent on the inside. 

Let's take a look at the top 10 available interior linemen, plus some more guys that could contribute in one form or another. 

One of the best guards in the NFL, Thuney figures to be a high priority for the Patriots this offseason. Since being selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, Thuney has played in and started 64 of 64 possible games, emerging as the most consistently excellent player on what until last season was one of the most consistently excellent offensive lines in the league. This past season, he ranked fourth among 130 qualifying interior linemen in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades, and considering the importance of passing relative to running, that makes Thuney a particularly valuable player.

Scherff missed five games this season, but he once again played at a high level when he was on the field, even making the Pro Bowl again after a one-year absence. Washington made him a first-round pick with the idea of moving him inside from tackle (where he played in college) to guard, just as their division rival Cowboys had done with Zack Martin the year before, and Scherff has made that look like a smart idea throughout his career. The injury issues he's dealt with the past two seasons are a concern, but he's also a considerably above-average guard about to enter the prime of his career. He should command a nice-sized contract. 

The Broncos lost Matt Paradis to the Panthers in free agency last offseason, but McGovern stepped in and acquitted himself really nicely. The team's offense struggled for much of the year due to the poor play of Joe Flacco and then Brandon Allen, but the run game was solid all year and the pass-blocking at least kept those below-average QBs pretty well-protected. McGovern's steady presence on the inside played a big role in both of those things, and he should be one of the top available centers this offseason.

The Panthers' season was undermined by Cam Newton's near-season-long injury absence, but the guys up front did a strong job clearing the way for Christian McCaffrey all year. While some of the offensive linemen (ahem, Daryl Williams) struggled throughout the year, Van Roten at least looked pretty good in pass protection, ranking 31st among the aforementioned group of 130 linemen in PFF's pass-blocking grades. You could certainly do worse than Van Roten when looking for interior help this offseason. 

A couple of years ago Schofield's career looked like it was on the downswing, but he has rebounded with really solid play over the past two years. He's still only 29 years old and doesn't turn 30 until the latter part of next season, so he should have several years of average or better play left under his belt. The Chargers badly need to keep any solid pieces on their offensive line so it may be tough to pry Schofield away but with Philip Rivers leaving, the team may just be undertaking a rebuild anyway and so might not want to shell out for a player who is pretty good but definitely not a star.

Wisniewski stepping into the lineup in place of Andrew Wylie was a pretty big boost to the Chiefs' offense, and with both players free agents this offseason it seems likely that KC will prioritize the guy who ended the season (and the Super Bowl) as the starter. But they are under a bit of a cap crunch so if someone comes in with an offer that's just too big for the Chiefs to match, they might be able to pry him away. Teams should be careful about paying too much for Wis, though, as he has bounced around a bit and isn't always as good as he was last year. 

Peat is coming off an injury-marred season where he did not look anything close to his best and yet still made the Pro Bowl despite playing in only 10 games. We have seen look far better than he did in 2019, and it wasn't all that long ago that he looked like a considerably above-average guard. The Saints always have cap concerns and might not want to lay out the money to keep him, but he's an important part of their offense and it's likely they'll approach his free agency that way. Given that he has missed nine games due to injury over the past two years, there is some risk here. 

Skura was a valuable piece of one of the NFL's best offenses, holding things down inside and working as a major component of one of the more complicated run-blocking schemes in the league. He's not the best pass-protector and so could be a bit of a liability for non-Ravens teams, but in Baltimore, the offense is so much based around the run -- and the threat of the run -- that he makes for an excellent fit and carries a bit more importance than he might elsewhere. 

Leary came into the league with injury issues and only even landed in Dallas (where he began his career) due to concerns that his knee might have a degenerative condition. Those injury issues have followed him throughout his career with both the Cowboys and Broncos, but when he's on the field he is a very solid guard who excels in both the run game and pass protection. Given his advancing age, those knee issues might be even more concerning than they were when Dallas let him walk a few years ago, but on a short-term deal, he is a strong option for teams that need help inside. 

Best of the rest

Mike Iupati (Seahawks)

Ben Garland (49ers)

Quinton Spain (Bills)

Tom Compton (Jets)

Xavier Su'a-Filo (Cowboys)

Alex Lewis (Jets)

Austin Blythe (Rams)

Andrew Wylie (Chiefs)

Ryan Kalil (Jets)

AQ Shipley (Cardinals)

Ted Karras (Patriots)

Earl Watford (Buccaneers)

BJ Finney (Steelers)

Correction: A previous version of this story listed Raiders guard Richie Incognito among the free agents. Incognito signed an extension just prior to the end of the season.

CBS Sports Writer

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He joined CBSSports.com in 2014 and has since spent far too much of his time watching film and working in spreadsheets. Full Bio

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