Browns’ OL Could Shake Up The Detroit Offensive Line.
There are a lot of big names being passed around as potential Larry Warford replacements in Lions land between Kevin Zeitler, TJ Lang, Ronald Leary, and others. A guy that might fly under the radar however as a great longer term option at a reasonable dollar value is Austin Pasztor. The 26 year old Canadian from Langton, Ontario was a UDFA out of Virginia that has worked his way up from an afterthought to a decent starter at right tackle and guard last year for the Browns after getting claimed off the waiver wire. While he had issues with injuries his first few years in Jacksonville, he cleared them up over the last two seasons and made himself impossible to keep off the field. With a full season of sixteen starts under his belt, Pasztor’s value is significant as the most underrated offensive lineman available on the market.
What Does Austin Pasztor Bring To The Table?
Pasztor is an excellent pass protector who fits ideally in a zone blocking scheme. A blue collar, lunch pail type of player, Pasztor will give you all effort all the time. For a big man he’s got reasonable feet and can move well around his area, but what best defines his play is a nastiness and physicality he brings to every rep. Add in his positional versatility between guard and right tackle, and his football intelligence and he’s got all the traits of a high ceiling lineman that’s still growing as an NFL player. The one area he really struggles is against the run, however he’s much better at opening holes from the guard spot than tackle as he can put blinders on and focus on the responsibility directly in front of him as opposed to the outside where he has to work in space against faster players. Whether the Lions lose Reiff or Warford, they should be considering Pasztor as a strong long term replacement option.
Why Might Austin Pasztor Be Available?
The Browns have been saying for some time now that they want to prepare for a future after Joe Thomas, and having Pasztor taking up the right tackle position isn’t helping them from a developmental standpoint there. While there aren’t a lot of draft prospects out there the Browns have been intently combing through them and free agency options to see if they can find a left tackle capable of trying to fill Joe Thomas’ shoes down the road. If they do find that player, putting him in at right tackle is the best way to get them experience and see how they perform at the NFL level. There’s no real room for Pasztor on the interior either as John Greco and Joel Bitonio will both be returning from injury to man their guard positions, and I don’t think anybody likes the idea of trying a 6’7″ guy out at center. Unless Pasztor is willing to accept primary backup money in Cleveland, he should be leaving for a better situation this off-season.
The Bottom Line On Austin Pasztor
Pasztor isn’t going to be that elite option on the market that blows you away and makes fans go crazy. He could however very well be the guy who steps in as a solid, consistent, starter that can bounce around the lineup competently in event of injuries and keep a season afloat. You’re not going to get that same road grating bulldozer Lions fans are used to seeing in the interior, but you’re going to keep Stafford’s jersey clean and that’s the most important thing at the end of the day. For middle of the road guard money (a little over 5 million a year) his value is a steal when you compare that to the approaching double digit millions a year figures the top few options are going to get on the open market, and he’s still got room to grow as a player. While he may never be a Pro Bowler, he’s a guy that can get you what you need and that’s just what the Lions should be looking for on the market if that’s where they go to address their needs. The Lions would be smart to rope in the big kid who grew up just two and a half hours away from Ford Field and add the finishing touches to a promising young offensive line group.