The Patriots are set to enter the free agency phase of the 2016 off-season and we’ll explore some of the biggest needs of the team moving forward. And some of the names of their own free agents as well as some of their potential targets.
Next up on the free agency positional list: Tackles
Team Need: High
Returning players: Nate Solder (IR), Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Kaevon Milton, Kevin Hughes (IR),
Free Agents: Cameron Fleming (ERFA), LaAdrian Waddle
The Patriots getting overwhelmed at the point of attack in Denver still has Pats fans scratching their heads. It shouldn’t; the Broncos dominated a much better offensive line in Carolina’s during the Super Bowl and got a well-deserved win.
The changes with the Pats began quickly. OL Coach Dave DeGuglielmo was not re-signed and rumors were that the team was ready to move on from him weeks before the AFC Championship Game over the poor play of the unit.
Former LT Matt Light laid a lot of the blame on their poor play by the line not having prepared enough in the silent snap count and mixing it up more to keep Denver guessing. That would rest squarely on DeGuglielmo’s shoulders if true.
Long-time coach Dante Scarnecchia has returned and that has to be a great sign for the offensive line as a whole. Coach Scar always seemed to be able to get the best out of his players and he’s either coached or had a hand in drafting nearly every member of the unit.
After Nate Solder went down with a torn biceps the tackle position suffered. Sebastian Vollmer also missed time as well. Marcus Cannon started for a time and was a lightning rod for criticism and he was especially ineffective down the stretch. Cameron Fleming fared little better. The team brought in LaAdrian Waddle but he too was hurt down the stretch.
So what else will happen in 2016? Solder will return and that is a big plus. He’s signed through 2017 and will be fine at left tackle. Vollmer is returning as the starting right tackle and is on the hook for $2 million. Cannon has a contract that will pay him $3.4 million in 2016. That is far too much for a player of his caliber.
Vollmer is a big guy with back and knee issues, if they can, the Patriots should find a younger, more athletic right tackle and then re-do Vollmer’s contract and move him to swing tackle. That falls in line with the Patriots way of thinking, which is to replace a player perhaps a year too soon rather than a year too late. The move would also prolong Sea Bass’ career a bit as well. Cannon’s cap hit can be eliminated and Waddle, who is an intriguing player could be brought back as well.
If they decide that is the way to go…there are some outstanding tackles available in free agency as well as the draft that can be good fits for the Patriots. First up is a tackle who was rated the #1 right tackle by Pro Football Focus (PFF).