|Sebastian Vollmer: New England ‘is the place I wanted to be’||03.28.13 at 1:43 pm ET|
Sounding very much like a man who is relieved the free agent process is done, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer said Thursday afternoon that he was “just happy” to be back in New England after signing a four-year deal. Vollmer, a second-round pick out of Houston in 2009, was on the open market for roughly three weeks, but expressed relief he had the opportunity to return to the Patriots.
“This is the place I wanted to be,” he said on a conference call with reporters shortly before getting on a plane and flying to Germany for his sisters’ wedding. “I’m just really thankful for Mr. [Robert] Kraft and his family and Coach [Bill Belichick] and whoever else was involved to let me be a part of this and to give me an opportunity so I can continue to prove myself. [I'm] excited and happy to be here.”
The 28-year-old Vollmer has struggled with back and knee issues in his four-year career in New England, but when healthy, the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder has managed to carve out an impressive resume, one that includes a second-team All-Pro nod in 2010, as well as an overall grade of +28.2 from the folks at Pro Football Focus for his work this past season.
It’s an impressive stretch for someone who played relatively little football before arriving in the United States for college, and competed on a collegiate level for a relatively small program at the University of Houston. While many of his accomplishments are because of his own hard work, he singled out offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia as well.
“He’s been a tremendous influence on me — just coming from a smaller program and coming to a program like the Patriots and being with Dante and just learning the game under his tutelage and really focusing on technique and schemes and whatever else goes with it,” Vollmer said. “I’m really grateful for having him as a coach and continuing to have him as a coach. All the praise goes to him. I’m just really happy to have a coach like him who makes me better.”
Vollmer, who adroitly deflected a question as to whether or not he had taken any free agent visits with other teams, now returns to New England, and his re-signing means the Patriots will now have all five members of their starting offensive line at the end of the season back for another year. That level of familiarity is big when it comes to assembling a successful offensive line.
“When you play next to a guy for a few years and you practice next to a guy, you just get certain things down. You kind of know how the other guys play certain situations and you just get a feel for each other,” he said. “I think that is important. Although, injuries do happen and whatnot and that’s why we practice with different combinations. I think we’re just happy to have the starting five now intact and everything else, we’ll cross the bridge then. Definitely, I think it helps, and I think that’s a good thing.”
According to reports, Vollmer and the Patriots have crafted a unique contract, one that allows the German native to become one of the higher-paid tackles in the league if he stays healthy over the course of the deal. While Vollmer wouldn’t get into specifics of the deal, he did acknowledge that health plays a
“I feel really good. I just left the weight room and working out and whatnot. I feel really good and [I’m] actually going to take a trip to Germany pretty soon,” he said when asked about his health.
“Obviously you go into a season, you’re trying to be healthy. You do everything you can,” he said. “Sometimes you can’t help it; other things you can prevent with certain preparation. Obviously, as players, we do everything we can to stay healthy and prepare ourselves for the contact and physicality of the sport. Obviously, I’ve continued to do that.”
|Report: Sebastian Vollmer’s deal could max out at four years, $27 million||03.25.13 at 5:41 pm ET|
The Patriots and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer have agreed to terms, with Pro Football Talk reporting that the four-year contract has $8.25 million in guarantees for the big German, with a base value of $17 million through 2016.
There will also reportedly be $9 million in playing-time incentives and bonuses, with a $1 million bonus for making the Pro Bowl. All told, Mike Garofalo of USA Today is reporting that the deal maxes out at a potential $27 million.
The deal is a good one for both sides: Vollmer nets a nice payday fairly commensurate with his overall value to the Patriots, as well as his status as one of the best tackles in the league (especially when measured against some of the other deals that top-level tackles have received this offseason). Meanwhile, New England has apparently guarded itself against Vollmer’s occasionally spotty injury history with some playing time incentives that could pay off in the long run for the former second-round pick out of Houston.
|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.)
|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.
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|As free agency slows, our picks for top 10 players still on market||03.20.13 at 1:00 pm ET|
The game of musical chairs that is NFL free agency is starting to wind down, and while the music is still going, the chairs are starting to disappear. That being said, there are some quality free agents left on the market who still haven’t found a home. Here are our top 10 unrestricted free agents still on the market:
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil: Dumervil — the victim of a fax screwup that cost him millions — reportedly will return to the Broncos, but the Ravens, Titans and Steelers also were sniffing around the pass-rusher. According to the Denver Post, Broncos head of football operations John Elway wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the new offer to Dumervil, but expectations are that it would be a three-year deal for significantly less than the $30 million Dumervil would have been owed under his original contract.
Tackle Sebastian Vollmer: Part of the second wave of tackles behind Jake Long, he faces a fluid market. The Patriots appear to be waiting out the market, much like they did on cornerback Aqib Talib. There have been some injury issues, but when he’s been healthy, he’s been one of the best tackles in the league.
Tackle Andre Smith: This 26-year-old out of Alabama managed to live down a hideous pro day pic to become one of the best tackles in the league. He made all 16 starts at right tackle for the Bengals last year and graded out as the best in the league at his position, per Pro Football Focus.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora: Umenyiora reportedly has drawn the interest of the Lions and Dolphins, but at a price significant below what the defensive end is looking for. The market for veteran pass-rushing defensive ends rough this season — not as bad as it is for corners, but it’s still depressed. The 31-year old Umenyiora, a 6-foot-3, 261-pounder, has 75 career sacks, including 15 over the last two seasons.
Cornerback Brent Grimes: The 29-year-old Grimes suffered an Achilles injury last September and was on the shelf for virtually the entire season, but the 5-foot-10, 183-pound veteran could still play an important role for a defense in 2013 if he’s healthy. Grimes had his best season in 2010 with the Falcons, when he finished with 87 tackles (76 solo), 23 passes defensed and five interceptions.
Safety Ed Reed: We’ve long believed that the 34-year-old Reed would be a good fit in New England, but the future Hall of Famer has spent most of free agency batting his eyes while the Texans buy him drinks. At this point, it appears that the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reed has narrowed his choices to Houston and Baltimore. (UPDATE: Reed has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Texans)
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|Notes on Sebastian Vollmer, Julian Edelman and how the Leon Washington signing might affect Jeff Demps||03.18.13 at 1:41 pm ET|
Three midday notes on the Patriots and free agency:
With tackle Jake Long finally secured by the Rams, this should start a series of signings among the rest of the league’s elite free agent offensive linemen, including Sebastian Vollmer. Vollmer, who is probably the Patriots best remaining free agent, will be able to measure himself against the contracts signed by Long (a four-year deal that could be worth up to $36 million, with $16 million guaranteed at signing) and Jermon Bushrod (a five-year deal that could be worth upwards of $35.9 million, with $17.7 million guaranteed). Two things about Vollmer and his situation: One, given his injury history, he’ll probably get a little less than either one of those two tackles. (At the very least, the Patriots will build in playtime incentives to try and make sure he’s on the field as often as possible.) And two, you have to figure that the Dolphins are now very interested in Vollmer, considering that they lost out to the Rams for Long’s services. Miami still has money to spend under the cap, and would also love the opportunity to weaken a divisional rival.
After Vollmer, Julian Edelman could be next priority for the Patriots, at least when it comes to retaining their own free agents. You have to figure that Edelman’s value to the Patriots increased slightly in the wake of Wes Welker‘s departure, but at the same time, I can’t imagine New England would break the bank for Edelman. (Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports Tweeted Monday afternoon: Would not rule out a return by WR Julian Edelman to Pats. NE still searching for receivers. Market getting thin.) A tough player who has added value on special teams, he could definitely see an uptick in playing time in the wake of Welker’s departure — we all remember how he suddenly got a boost at the start of the 2012 season. Edelman has struggled with injury over the last two seasons, but if he can stay healthy, he figures to be a good fit in New England in 2013, even with the addition of Danny Amendola.
One guy who has kind of gotten lost in all the hubbub this past week is Jeff Demps — specifically, what the signing of Leon Washington means for the former Olympic track star. Despite the fact that he’s said he wants to try his hand at both track and football, the Patriots likely aren’t all that enthused about the idea of him returning to the track later this month. The franchise has a year invested in him — he signed in late August — and the fact that they stashed him on injured reserve last season with a (ahem) leg injury instead of cutting him loose speaks to just how much they think of his abilities and what he could bring down the road. (That and the three-year, $1.451 million contract he signed with the Patriots last August.) However, the addition of Washington could provide New England with some insurance in case they decide to part ways with Demps. A storyline worth following as we get closer to spring workouts.
|Four final Saturday thoughts on Patriots and free agency||03.17.13 at 12:36 am ET|
Four Patriots-related thoughts as business comes to a close on Saturday:
Brandon Lloyd: There’s extreme makeover, and then, there’s what the Patriots are doing at wide receiver. As it stands right now, the Patriots don’t have a single receiver on the roster that caught a pass for them last season. That doesn’t mean that they won’t bring back Lloyd (who was cut Saturday afternoon) or re-sign Julian Edelman (who is still an available free agent). But right now, New England is looking at a depth chart at wide receiver that includes newcomers Donald Jones and Danny Amendola. Strange days, indeed.
Two more notes on the wide receiver position: First, as of this moment, there’s no offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders. The receiver, who will turn 26 on Sunday, caught 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 2012 for Pittsburgh, starting seven games. In his three-year career, Sanders has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five TDs. And two, this little nugget showed up late Saturday night: the Patriots were initially interested in Greg Jennings. According to Bob McGinn, “According to an NFL source, the New England Patriots offered Jennings a deal averaging $6 million but didn’t get very far. Then the Patriots turned to St. Louis’ Danny Amendola as the replacement for Wes Welker.” Jennings ended up signing with the Vikings, a five-year deal valued at $47.5 million with $18 million guaranteed.
Sebastian Vollmer: The right tackle is playing the waiting game at this point — along with most of the other elite free agent offensive linemen like Jake Long and Andre Smith — as the market continues to shake itself out. The first domino that is expected to fall is Long, who is still picking and choosing after a ridiculously long visit with the Rams. After Long’s deal sets the marketplace, Vollmer should follow soon after that. If he did come back to New England (and right now, it’s my guess that he does return, eventually), the Patriots might build some playtime incentives into his deal like they apparently did with Amendola. The new receiver has incentives for staying healthy — if he plays all 16 games all five years of his contract, he’ll make an extra $500,000 a year. Vollmer, who has also struggled with injuries over the last couple of years, has been an elite tackle when healthy, but injuries have slowed him in the past (particularly in 2011). But considering the market, the Patriots were wise not to use the franchise tag (it would have been $9.7 million) on him this year.
Aqib Talib: You rarely see two sides display such astounding common sense when it comes to negotiations, but the Patriots and the veteran corner handled this situation about as well as could be expected. New England read the market perfectly in this case — it’s a depressed year for corners — and instead of panicking and slapping the franchise tag on him (particularly in the wake of Alfonzo Dennard‘s murky legal future) which would have cost them $10.7 million, they waited it out and let the market set. As for Talib, he’s betting on himself to have a top-level year, and test the market again in 2014. The Patriots get a motivated player, while Talib gets a market-value deal and one more chance to prove to the rest of the league he deserves a big payday. Both sides get a big thumbs up for this one.
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