Potential landing spots for Michael Onwenu in free agency 

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Mike Onwenu's PFF rating had never fallen below 79.0 until 2023, when he was hit with a 46.1 grade. He had such a down year that he was featured on their list of “least improved players." So, this is probably not a great time to be heading to free agency. He has said he would like to stay in New England, and Adrian Klemm’s departure may have solidified that feeling.

But he has also said, “But nothing has been written, or anything has been put into words.” So he could well hit free agency next month. Where could he land, though?  

There are only two critical factors in identifying where Onwenu could be playing in 2024. The obvious question is, “Who needs to upgrade their offensive line?” and the secondary consideration is, who can afford to pay him?

Well, the Giants allowed their pass throwers (because Parris Campbell was sacked last season, and he’s definitely not a quarterback) to be sacked 85 times! So, they could use some help, but they currently only have $26.8 million to play with. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to pay him. 

Los Angeles Chargers 

Onwenu played at Michigan under Jim Harbaugh, playing on both the offensive and defensive lines as a freshman. But he settled on the offensive line for the next two years and was named third-team All-Big 10 in both years. 

The Chargers allowed 43 sacks during the regular season. And Justin Herbert was injured when he was hit by Broncos defensive end Zach Allen. But that’s not all; their 3.8 yards per carry average saw their rushing offense ranked 27th in the league.

The offensive line is the first thing Harbaugh will want to fix in L.A. The Chargers are effectively $56 million over the salary cap for next season. So, they will need to rework a lot of contracts, but Onwenu will undoubtedly be one of the more affordable linemen available.

Pairing him with Rashawn Slater would give Herbert more pocket time. 

Washington Commanders 

Sam Cosmi is very good (and Charles Leno Jr. Is quite good, too); if the Commanders paired him with Onwenu, they might be able to protect their quarterback next season. They sure couldn’t in 2023. They allowed their quarterbacks to get sacked 65 times!

With Onwenu’s versatility, he could also slot in at tackle in Washington. So, he would be a valuable addition to the lineup. The Commanders lead the league in cap space, with $73.6 million to spend. 

Cincinnati Bengals 

When you think of teams who have let their quarterback get battered throughout the last few seasons, the Bengals appear close to the top of that list. They conceded 50 sacks during the regular season, and only 24 were on Burrow. Had he played the whole season, he still would have been sacked 41 times. That’s 13 times more than Brock Purdy was taken down.

Burrow also suffered the same number of sacks in 2022, and signing Orlando Brown Jr. Was supposed to fix that issue. 

Cincinnati has $54.4 million to spend, but they have to try to re-sign both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd while also needing to strengthen their offensive line. 

Chicago Bears 

There will be a new face calling the plays in Chicago, and whoever is under center, the Bears will need to improve the pass protection. Bears’ quarterbacks hit the deck 50 times on 513 dropbacks during the regular season. 

They also have about $47 million to spend in free agency, and they don’t have any expensive free agents they need to re-sign. Yannick Ngakoue will cost over $11 million, but he only recorded four sacks in 2023, so he’s not really a vital part of the defense. 

Carolina Panthers 

Playing for a franchise owned by David Tepper might not be the most appealing job in the league. But they do have $28.5 million to spend; technically, that’s not much more than the Giants. And they have 27 different players hitting free agency. It’ll be fascinating to see how many bolts for the door as soon as possible. 

So, they may not be able to afford Onwenu, but the Panthers do need to address their pass protection if Bryce Young’s career will have any chance to progress. They allowed the rookie QB to be sacked 62 times in the 16 games he played. No offense will flourish when they have to pick the quarterback up off the turf four times each game! 

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