What return of Sebastian Vollmer means for Patriots
|03.24.13 at 12:05 pm ET|
The re-signing of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer by the Patriots isn’t the sort of headline-grabbing move on the level of other free agent deals, but the contract is key to the success of the New England offense, as the big German has evolved into one of the better tackles in the NFL.
A second-round pick out of the University of Houston in 2009, Vollmer has 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. A massive presence alone the right side, he’s also played some left tackle, but was a second-team All-Pro in 2010, and received an overall grade of +28.2 from the folks at Pro Football Focus for his work this past season.
Three initial things stick out about the news:
1. Much like the case with Aqib Talib, the Patriots read the market well in this case, and let things develop before coming to an agreement with their incumbent right tackle. The free agent tackle market was relatively slow to develop this season, with Jake Long (who was considered the best available tackle) taking some time before agreeing to a four-year deal with the Rams that was worth up to $36 million, with $16 million guaranteed at signing. While we don’t know the particulars of Vollmer’s deal at this moment, it’s reasonable to think that both sides waited until Long’s contract set the market and went from there.
2. It keeps the entire offensive line intact going forward into 2013, a group that includes Vollmer at right tackle, Dan Connolly at right guard, Ryan Wendell at center, Logan Mankins at left guard and Nate Solder at left tackle. This was a position that underwent lots of upheaval at the start of the 2012 season, as New England was looking for ways to replace veterans Matt Light (left tackle) and Dan Koppen (center), as well as the one-and-done Brian Waters (right guard). (Remember the Robert Gallery Experiment?) But the group did a nice job in the midst of all the change, and came together quite nicely down the stretch. To have the entire group back for 2013 can’t be overstated; consistency and continuity are huge parts of helping build a successful offensive line.
3. While wide receiver Julian Edelman remains available, Vollmer represents the last big-name free agent of their own to sign a deal. It’s worth noting that the Patriots were able to retain two of their three “big name” free agents in Vollmer and Talib (they lost wide receiver Wes Welker to the Broncos), which is a reasonable goal for any team in this era of free agency. (For what it’s worth, while Edelman is also a possibility to return, to this point Vollmer represents the only member of the 2009 draft class to sign a second contract with the Patriots.)