New England Patriots Off-season Outlook By Position: Part 4 of 8: Offensive Line


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots center Bryan Stork (66) snaps the ball alongside offensive lineman Dan Connolly (63) against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have one week remaining in the off-season following their victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 before the difficult decisions come to a head with roster deadlines and free agency. With a number of internal free agents and a chunk of their cap money tied-up in cornerback Darrelle Revis and his “placeholder” $25 million cap charge in 2015 (salary data from, there is a lot of work to be done by Nick Caserio and the New England front office. Once Revis is extended with a new contract or released  on March 9th when the $12 million roster bonus is due, the team should be able to get their salary cap in order.


The Patriots have already used the franchise tag to keep potential free agent kicker Stephen Gostkowski on the roster. The team still has no deal in place with pending free agent free safety Devin McCourty. The team still has a number of needs to fill, especially if they cannot keep all of their own free agents.


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft follows in May, but by then the Patriots will be well into shaping their roster. Last season New England had a strong foray into free agency bringing in wide receiver Brandon LaFell (74 receptions for 953 yards and 7 touchdowns), re-signing wide receiver Julian Edelman (92 receptions for 972 yards and 4 touchdowns), and re-signing valuable blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and guard/center Ryan Wendell on offense (all stats from unless otherwise noted). On defense Revis was the the crown jewel but cornerback Brandon Browner and safety Patrick Chung brought hard-hitting swagger to the defense.


This season the Patriots will need another strong off-season again to keep the team in contention to defend their 2014 Super Bowl championship. Like all Super Bowl champions their free agents tend to be over-valued and receive extra attention from the other 31 teams in the NFL. McCourty is one of the top free agents on the market who should draw a lot of attention.


Looking at free agency needs and the 2015 NFL Draft, this series first addressed the offense by looking at the most important position in part one: quarterback. Part two of the off-season delved into the running back position. Part three kept the focus on the offense and takes a look at the wide receivers and tight ends.  The offense wraps up with part four taking a look at the offensive line.


Offensive Line:


Under contract: Nate Solder $7.43 million cap number; Sebastian Vollmer $7.02 million cap number; Marcus Cannon $2.61 million cap number; Ryan Wendell $2.45 million cap number; Bryan Stork $629,250 cap number; Cameron Fleming $585,146 cap number; Josh Kline $585,000 cap number; Caylin Hauptmann $510,000 cap number; Chris Barker $510,000 cap number; Jordan Devey $510,000 cap number.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tackle Nate Solder (77) catches a pass from quarterback Tom Brady (12) and runs for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots offensive line is set in 2015 at the tackle position: Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are solid starters and Marcus Cannon is a more than serviceable back-up who did well in a reserve role in 2013 when Vollmer broke his leg at mid-season. Behind them is future starter Cameron Fleming who is already a starter level run blocker but needs to show improvement in pass blocking. There is even more depth with prospect Caylin Hauptmann and in an emergency Jordan Devey has experience at tackle.


The only issue at tackle is the price tag. Vollmer and Solder have a cap charge over $7 million in 2015 and Cannon is at a price that seems high for a back-up. Solder is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the team may approach him about an extension this off-season. With Vollmer’s injury history and Solder’s impending free agency, the signing of Cannon to an extension during this season makes sense.


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots center Bryan Stork (66) reacts against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

At center Bryan Stork is inexpensive and brings youth, energy, enthusiasm, and a bit of nastiness to the middle of the line. It is not surprise the offensive line improved when the rookie took over in the middle. Ryan Wendell had a renaissance at right guard after struggling at center in 2013. Wendell is best at run blocking but a serviceable pass blocker who provides a solid back-up at center.


The Patriots struggled to find help in the middle of the line beyond Stork and Wendell as veteran Dan Connolly struggled with injuries. While Connolly had his challenges in pass protection, the line passed the eye test and performed more consistently. Connolly is a free agent after surprisingly staying all three years and all of his $9.75 million contract he signed after a break-out 2011 season. Replacing long-time left guard Logan Mankins was not an easy task.


The team cycled through guards trying to find a consistent combination early in the season starting Jordan Devey, Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline, and even Cameron Fleming at different points. While Connolly may be cheaper than he was, the team still needs a  guard for the future. Expect the team to explore free agency and the draft to find the eventual replacement at left guard and more depth at the position.


Need (Low, Mid, High): High


Free Agent Activity:

Sep 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati (77) in action against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In free agency there are two big name, big impact guards and then a bunch of “other guys”. Former 49ers guard Mike Iupati is a beast in the running game and Broncos’ guard Orlando Franklin blossomed after moving from right tackle. Both are in their prime (Franklin is 27 years old and Iupati is 28 years old) and both are expected to have plenty of attention when free agency kicks off. The Patriots do not have much of a history signing pricey free agent guards and 2015 expects to be no exception.


Beyond the top two guards, there are a number of question marks. Justin Blalock played well for the Falcons but is 31. Rob Sims and Todd Herremans struggled in Detroit and Philadelphia last year and are both on the wrong side of 30 as well. That goes for Erik Pears (Buffalo), Adam Snyder (NY Giants), Davin Joseph (Rams), Daryn Colledge (Dolphins), and Charlie Johnson (Rams).


There are younger free agents such as James Carpenter of the Seahawks and Clint Boling of the Bengals, but they have issues such as injuries (Boling tore his ACL in 2013) or conditioning and inconsistent play (Carpenter). There are other young veterans such as Gabe Carimi, John Jerry, Paul Fanaika who are free agents simply because they failed to impress their current teams.


The Patriots may find themselves looking for a free agent guard, but training camp cut-downs is a more likely spot to shop. Expect New England to turn to the draft to fill their need.



Oct 18, 2014; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard A.J. Cann (50) on the sidelines against the Furman Paladins in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Patriots took a sixth round flier on Jon Halapio and struck out despite hitting a home run in the fourth round with center Bryan Stork. At this point of the off-season South Carolina’s A.J. Cann and Duke’s Laken Tomlinson top the board with a second-round grade. The Patriots have picked a guard at #32 overall before as they got a decade of solid service from Logan Mankins after their surprise pick of him with the last pick of the first round in the 2005 NFL Draft.


Beyond that duo, there are a number of intriguing prospects to pick through in the middle rounds. Florida State’s Tre’ Jackson and Cameron Erving, Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio, small school prospect Ali Marpet from Hobart, and John Miller of Louisville all have an intriguing mix of size and strength. Brandon Scheff of Iowa and LSU’s La’el Collins are both college tackles who project to play in the NFL at guard and could be available when the Patriots pick at the end of the second round.

Expect the Patriots to draft a couple of interior linemen to compete in 2015 and provide depth immediately. An early round pick (second round?) and middle round (fourth round range?) are likely spots to target an injection of youth on the line.