My previous fan post briefly broke down the recent performances of the top T & G free-agents. This time I'll focus on 2 specific players, assuming different factors have already come in to play (which players hit the market, what we have our eye on in the draft, etc).
In this scenario I'll assume that FA LTs Brandon Albert (KC), Ryan Clady (DEN), and Will Beatty (NYG) don't hit the market. DEN & NYG don't have back-ups in the wings yet already have franchise QBs, so they're not going to create that hole if they can help it. KC has the #1 pick in the draft but any thought that they'd take #1 rated OT Luke Joeckel is crap. Why trade out a proven player for a "highly rated" player at the same position? You secure your strength at LT and add strength to another position (QB, DL, etc).
I'm also assuming Vollmer would be playing LT in this move. He has 5 (full) games of experience there in his rookie year, 2009, so while that's a long ways back I think it's enough to stave off the "changing sides is extremely difficult even for talented players (see Tyron Smith)" belief - at least a little. I'll be presenting his numbers as a RT and as a LT separately. I am focusing solely on LT and assuming FA will not be used to upgrade the RT spot (so I will not focus on prime "pure RT" prospects Andre Smith (CIN), Phil Loadholt (MIN) or Gosder Cherilus (DET) - not that I think any of them will hit the market either - even though all 3 would be a huge upgrade for the Chargers (especially the first 2)). And finally, while I was at first a proponent of Jake Long, believing he would hit the market (due to the drafting of Jonathan Martin last year) and because he is coming off a "#1 overall pick" contract (back when they could be huge), he wouldn't be too greedy (though we see how that worked with Mario I guess). That, while he wasn't the best performer of recent years, he'd be more likely to be had. I have recently read that MIA believes he still expects to be paid like a top performer despite his recent seasons, with an off-putting amount of arrogance. I'll pass on him now.
I've settled on these 2 players because I believe they both could hit the market and could be "affordable" (however the new regime defines that). NE has Marcus Cannon "in the wings" at RT and he performed admirably in his 1 start in 2012. They've had changes to the line in recent years and still remained a good unit, so I think they can afford to let Vollmer leave. In PHI, I don't expect Jason Peters' recent injury to COMPLETELY prevent him from returning to the team, and "most" people are expectin PHI to draft a LT with the 4th overall pick anyway, so I think Dunlap could be let go.
Enough with my jibber-jabber, here's some tables. (PBK & RBK are pass-block and run-block grades from Pro Fooball Focus (.com), PBK snp = snaps in pass protection. PBE is PFF's Pass Blocking Efficiency metric showing the % of snaps the player kept the QB clean, weighting hits and hurries as .75 a sack)
Just at a glance, while the LT-games are not an ideal sample-size for either player, they performed well, with Vollmer being more well-rounded.
An additional piece of data I thought might be helpful was looking at the time each player had to protect (data from 2011-2012 only, via PFF). For reference, TB = Tom Brady, PR = Philip Rivers (for "what they're getting into", if our system is close to the same/ if our WR still have trouble getting open w/o going deep), and PHI = PHI's QBs combined. Avg Time = the average # of seconds (per dropback) that the QB had to either: attempt a pass, get sacked, or scramble past the LSO. Avg Att = avg # of seconds to attempt a pass. 2.6+% = the % of dropbacks that lasted 2.6 seconds or more (as passes that take longer than 2.5s to get off are statistically much poorer). Lastly, 15yd+% is the % of attempts that traveled more than 15 past the LOS in the air. (Adjusted by not counting throw-aways, passed batted at the LOS, or spikes as attempts).
What's noticeable is that Dunlap had to protect (relatively) much longer than Vollmer did in recent years, and that PHI's #s for 2012 are very close to Rivers' for 11-12 (longer developing players, etc). I'm NOT using these to claim that Vollmer's performance is a product of a team that gets plays off quickly, just putting them out there to add more to the discussion (for all I know PFF accounts for time in protection when giving out grades). It's just interesting to think about.
What's interesting (but unrelated to the LTs), is that in 2012 Brady's passes/plays were much quicker than Rivers', yet their % of deep passes was much closer than in 2011. So system (vertical vs dink&dunk) isn't causing the time-difference. I would guess our receivers had a tougher time of getting open than in years past (where they did, and our high % of deep passes better accounted for our longer play-time) - the high % of dump-offs to RBs backs that notion up.
SO - I won't make a conclusion as to which player is the better choice (I'll leave that up to you all to argue), because I can see positives & negatives in both candidates, and there are so many more variables in play than what I've presented ($$ being one). I think Dunlap might come cheaper, but I'm wary of his 1 year of good-productivity and his below-average performance run-blocking**. Vollmer has consistently been a top-level OT in this league, but I don't know if he can shift to LT after ~4 years (or cheap he'd come). Both are young (KG 27, SV 28), 6'8" 310-315lb OT who would make a good addition to this team. Maybe we'll not even look at either - who knows? But nothin' wrong with speculating.
**teams like NO & NE are able to be consistently dominant on offense not just because they have HoF QBs (but that helps), but because they have (/had) top run-blocking units. The popular media just never acknowledged this because they ran RB-by-committee and so obviously their OL consisted of pass-protecting specialists. I would hope we can build an OL with players who are at least above-average in the weaker aspect of their game (and 0 is average at PFF, so King Dunlap was below average in run-blocking).