Matt Light has been the man protecting the blindside of Tom Brady (and Drew Bledsoe first) since 2001, starting 138 of 140 game appearances. He has been to three Pro Bowls, was the starter on all three Super Bowl championship teams, and has started all 16 games 7 out of his 10 NFL seasons. If you can say one thing about Matt Light, is that he has been steady and reliable. Light is a free agent, and the Patriots drafted Nate Solder in the first round of this year’s draft to play left tackle. That raises the questions: What is Light’s future? Will he return to New England? What is his value? Just how good is Matt Light?
Opinion seems to vary around the league.
Depending on who you ask, Light is a top 10 left tackle or not even in the top 15 among tackles. ESPN recently put together a list of the Top 10 left tackles in the NFL. Matt Light made the list as the 10th-best left tackle in the NFL. Of the 8 NFL divisional blog writers who casted votes, half voted for Light, with one ranking him as high as #4, but he was not ranked at all by half of the writers. Tim Graham, who covers the AFC East, was among the four who did not vote for Light. Here is his reasoning:
“Matt Light is a quality player, but Stats Inc. blamed him for 10 sacks allowed and four penalties last season, more in each category than his previous two seasons combined,’’ Graham said. “I’ve always thought Light got more recognition simply from being Tom Brady’s left tackle. Once you name the three or four elite tackles and you rack your brain for the next group, it’s easy to understand people sorting through the great quarterbacks and asking, ‘Who is so-and-so’s left tackle?’ Light made the Pro Bowl last year, but as an alternate. Light’s reputation also is enhanced by his involvement in the union and being a truly rare species: the gregarious Patriot.’’
As you can see just among the ESPN writers, there is widely-varied opinion as to where Light ranks among the NFL’s best. NFL.com analyst Pat Kirwan put together a list of the Top 25 offensive linemen, 11 of which were tackles, and Matt Light was not among them. Even in the short list of names following the ranking, which Kirwan thinks are on their way to making the list, does not mention Light. It does mention the Patriots’ right tackle, Sebastian Vollmer.
So where exactly does Light rank? He may not be a Top 10 tackle, but he does fit among the top 15 or so in my opinion. The issue becomes his age. Light is currently 32 years old, and will be 33 on the 23rd of this month. Even among those NFL personnel men who may agree with Light’s top 10 ranking, are they willing to spend top 10 tackle money on a 33-year old player? While Light certainly could find a starting job elsewhere, he may want to stick around with the Patriots and mentor Solder. Solder may not be ready to start right away, and Light would be a good insurance policy. The players in the locker room will certainly be rooting for Light to stick around.
With the NFL lockout seemingly heading towards a conclusion, we should get an answer soon as to his future. Will it be in New England?