T/G Austin Pasztor, Browns (6’7 | 305 | 26) – As of week three last season, Pasztor getting any sort of free agent deal would have probably been laughed at, but he improved significantly as the season progressed. Pasztor was a mess as a pass blocker the first three games of 2016, but according to Pro Football Focus he was the 2nd highest graded free agent tackle available from that point on.
Pasztor, who grew up in Canada before going to the University of Virginia, has bounced around the league since being an undrafted free agent in 2012. He was released in final cuts by the Vikings as a rookie before spending two seasons with both the Jags and Browns.
A natural guard, Pasztor was forced into the starting right tackle position for the Browns last season due to injuries and ended up starting 15 games. As I mentioned, Pasztor really struggled during his first few games at a new position, but by the end of the year was an above average right tackle with a 77.3 overall grade from PFF (higher than both Leno Jr & Massey)..
Despite not being able to earn a starting gig until this season, Pasztor has always been considered a solid run blocker but with significant issues in pass protection. Last year the light seemed to go on for Pasztor as a pass blocker and he finished the year tied for the 10th highest grade in the league in pass protection among right tackles (86.6), despite three disastrous games to start the season.
At only 26 years old, Pasztor still has plenty of upside remaining and more importantly has the versatility to play both right tackle and guard. With his improvement as a pass blocker, Pasztor could even backup Charles Leno Jr on the left side as well. At 6’7, 306 pounds he has the size and arm length to provide valuable depth as a swing tackle who can play on either side of the line.
With teams only suiting up seven active offensive linemen most weeks, a player like Pasztor who can fill in at four different spots on the line has a ton of value. The fact that he may already be a better right tackle than Bobby Massey is another reason for the Bears to target him before he is signed by another team.
Even with Pasztor’s youth, upside, versatility, and strong 2016 performance, he’s expected to cost considerably less than more established free agent options like Andrew Whitworth or Ricky Wagner.
Adding a versatile player like Pasztor would give the Bears a young, high-upside group of reserve linemen in Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush, Austin Pasztor, Tom Compton, and whoever they add in this year’s draft.