With all of the contract talk surrounding Wes Welker, I feel that we are leaving Sebastian Vollmer and his contract situation in our rear view mirror. I am a huge supporter of Welker and I really think the Pats need him to advance to a Super Bowl. However, with that being said I think that Vollmer is nearly as important to the Patriots offense as Welker is.
Throughout the season when we preview the Patriots games there is always one thing that needs to be done no matter who the opposing team is, and that is protecting Tom Brady. If Brady doesn’t have time to get into his rhythm and read the defense, then the Pats offense is reduced to just being average. If you look at the five playoff losses in the last six years for the Pats, all of them included Brady running for his life and having the Pats offense stall throughout the entire game because of lack of protection for Brady. If the Pats offensive line had done its job for the entire playoffs over the last six years I can make the argument that Brady and Belichick should have seven Super Bowl wins by now.
If the Patriots don’t sign Vollmer before free agency starts I do not think that the Pats will be able to retain him. I fear a team that is in need of offensive line help will come in and offer a lot of money for Vollmer and then he will be gone. The Patriots can not afford to lose Vollmer, he brings so much to the Pats offensive line and he is one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL. The Patriots offensive line is actually in very good shape heading into 2013, all the starters from last year will be returning except for maybe Vollmer. Opposing defenses that face the Patriots know that the only way you are going to slow the Patriots offense down is to get some pressure on Brady. They will find weaknesses in the offensive line and put their best pass rushers up against the weaker guys on the line. If Vollmer leaves then that would leave a huge weakness on the right side, and opposing teams would really have fun beating Brady up in the backfield.
The free agent market for right tackles is not very good this year. In fact I think that Vollmer is the best guy available this year other than Jake Long, and Long would just command too much money for the Pats. This really forces the Pats to sign Vollmer in my opinion, because I don’t think they want to see Marcus Cannon protecting Tom Brady in 2013. Cannon is a good young player, and I think he could thrive as an offensive guard, but he lacks the agility that is required of an offensive tackle. One guy that I could see the Pats maybe going after if Vollmer is not signed is Brandon Albert. I think he is one notch below Vollmer and could be a solid cheap replacement for Vollmer.
In my opinion Vollmer may be the most underrated player in the NFL. He is never compared with the top tackles in the game, and I really think that he deserves to be up there in the conversation. When healthy he is a dominant pass blocker, as you rarely if ever see him get beat off of the edge. This season he went up against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and he more than held his own. When it comes to run blocking, he is a bit like his counterpart Nate Solder in that they are both humongous, so it creates problems at getting low to run block at times. However, 90% of the time he is very solid in the run game as evidenced by the Pats seventh ranked rushing attack in the league in 2012. The one concern I have with Vollmer is his history with back injuries. He was listed on the injury report for the entire 2012 season because of his back and missed the Thanksgiving game against the Jets because of it. If it were just this past season that he had back issues I don’t think that there would be any problem, but this is a problem that has popped up numerous times in Vollmer’s career. This may affect how much Vollmer would get offered by the Patriots, and could possibly work into the Pats favor. The Patriots most likely have the most information on Vollmer’s back than any possible suitors do in the NFL. I think the Pats will know how much Vollmer is worth and will offer him a good amount of money, and I really hope that Vollmer takes it. Like the Welker situation I think Vollmer is very important to the Pats offense and if he wants to be in a situation where there will always be a chance of competing for a Super Bowl, then New England is the place to be for him.