What would right tackle look like for Patriots if they lose Sebastian Vollmer?
|03.21.13 at 9:39 am ET|
We recently rated right tackle Sebastian Vollmer as one of the best remaining free agents on the market, so it’s logical to ask — like we did in the case of Wes Welker before he signed with the Broncos — what the Patriots might do at the position if he does sign elsewhere.
A second-round pick out of the University of Houston in 2009, Vollmer has established himself as one of the best right tackles in the league. He’s struggled with injury at times over the course of his four-year career in New England ‘ he missed 10 games in 2011 because of a variety of ailments, including back and knee issues ‘ but when healthy, the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder from Germany has managed to carve out an impressive resume that included a second-team All-Pro nod in 2010 and an overall grade of +28.2 from the folks at Pro Football Focus for his work this past season.
But if Vollmer left as a free agent, how would the look of the tackle position change in New England? At this point, the left tackle spot is fairly secure, as Nate Solder is coming off his first full season at the position, and figure to be entrenched there for the near future. While there’s always the possibility the Patriots could draft a tackle next month, if New England was to lose Vollmer, the next man up right now is likely Marcus Cannon.
The TCU product, a 6-foot-5, 340-pounder, has played in 23 games since being drafted by the Patriots in 2011, starting one of them. After undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that year, he returned to the football field, and ended up playing 168 snaps as a rookie while filling in at right tackle. In 2012, he lined up at both right and left tackle over the course of the season, and started one game on the right side (Thanksgiving night in New Jersey against the Jets). Overall, according to PFF, he played 182 snaps over the course of the season, and PFF had him finish the year with a +3.6 grade while being responsible for one sack, one quarterback hit and one quarterback hurry.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke very highly of Cannon — who has some positional versatility in that he can play some guard as well as tackle — and his game at the AFC coaches breakfast earlier this week.
‘[He made] huge gains last year,’ Belichick said. ‘Obviously, he dealt with his physical situation in 2011 [he underwent treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma], wasn’t really able to start participating until whenever it was — October, whenever the PUP thing was.
‘This year was a totally different situation ‘ he got a lot of reps in training camp, given our offensive line, specifically tackle situation, and he’s improved tremendously as a player,’ Belichick added. ‘The opportunities he had to play early in the year, and even later in the year, he showed that improvement on the field in games as well as the practice field.’
One insurance plan the Patriots could have at the right tackle spot is Will Svitek, who was recently added as a veteran free agent. The 31-year-old Svitek, a 6-foot-6, 308-pounder out of Stanford, has played for the Chiefs and Falcons over the course of his career, starting 16 of a possible 61 games. His best season came in 2011 when he started 10 games at left tackle in place of Sam Baker. After Baker returned, he entered the 2012 season as Atlanta’s backup left tackle, but he missed the entire season after suffering what the team termed an upper arm injury.
Two more names for the depth chart are Markus Zusevics and Nick McDonald. Zusevics is a 6-foot-5, 303-pounder out of Iowa who likely fell out of the draft last after tearing his pectoral muscle while performing on the bench press at the combine, but was scooped up as an undrafted free agent. He was activated to the 53-man roster from the Reserve/Non Football Injury List in November, but didn’t play at all in 2012. In addition, the 6-foot-4, 316-pound McDonald had worked primarily as an interior lineman — he’s started three games at center since being added to New England’s 53-man roster in December 2011 — but the 25-year-old lined up at tackle in emergency situations, and could likely do so again if he was pressed into service.
One other possibility is the signing of right tackle Eric Winston — ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported that the Patriots had expressed interest in the Miami product, who could end up as the consolation prize for the team who fails to land Vollmer. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Winston is a 29-year-old who has spent seven seasons in the league — the first six of his career with the Texans before joining the Chiefs prior to the 2012 season. In his career, the extremely durable Winston has started a 103 of a possible 108 career games, and has consistently been regarded as one of the better right tackles in the NFL. Last season, PFF had him missing just 19 snaps over the course of the season while compiling a +20.2 grade with Kansas City.