Jan 13, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer (76) defends against Houston Texans linebacker Brooks Reed (58) in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots May Lose Sebastian Vollmer

New England Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer is among the best right tackles in the league, and will likely fetch a high price on the free agent market. It’s a shame because he’s consistently performed at a high level in New England, no matter whether he’s played left tackle (shutting down Dwight Freeney) or abusing opponents at right tackle (his 2012 campaign of dominance); thus, the Patriots may need to prepare for life without him.

The market won’t just want him for being an excellent right tackle, it will want him for being a decent right tackle. A few colleagues and I ran through the list of starting right tackles in the league and, utilizing the scientific method, determined that Doug Free is an average right tackle in this league. For anyone who’s watched even one snap of Free lately, this illustrates a lot about the current crop of right tackles. Several teams could use an upgrade, and Vollmer adds to that some experience as a left tackle, so he may command a high price. Luckily for him, he has yet to release a desired price a la Andre Smith or Jake Long, so he might be able to wait for their deals and sign for more.

No one wants to see Vollmer leave this team – hell, there are very few on this team I’d like to see leave – for numerous reasons. Not only has he been great, he’s been great since 2009. He’s another one of those Patriot underdogs who no one really knew about coming out, like Tom Brady and Wes Welker, who’s now a star (he wasn’t even invited to the combine). He was very obviously a pick coordinated by Dante Scarnecchia who’s worked out well. He’s had his share of injuries over the years – 2011 was his most troubled outing, while his back problems showed their impact in the first game against the Dolphins in 2012. If it’s any solace to Patriots fans, they ought to know that the system relies on Brady’s quick release – they can live with Marcus Cannon at right tackle. However, everyone would be more comfortable with Vollmer. Hopefully Brady’s contract renegotiation frees up space not only for Welker and a #1 corner (if we get Brent Grimes, you can expect a wildly ecstatic post from yours truly), but also for a hardworking elite right tackle.

You can follow Christopher Field on Twitter @ChrisDField.

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