The New England Patriots had a very good offensive line in 2016. Will they be making any adjustments to the unit this offseason?
The 5th positional grouping we will be looking at in free agency for the New England Patriots is the offensive line. This preview will look into the available free agents and short list a few players that may fit the Patriots scheme.
As stated in the other previews, (which you can see here; QB, HB, FB & TE) we aren’t taking into account the upcoming draft. Basically we are answering the question “If the Patriots could only fill their roster with Free Agents, who would they be?”
The Patriots offensive line group is a bit different to the other positions this year with regards to contracts. They have twelve players under contract and no free agents now that Cameron Fleming was tendered.
Offensive Lineman under contract
- David Andrews (C)
- Chris Barker (G)
- Marcus Cannon (T)
- Jamil Douglas (G)
- Chase Farris (G)
- Cameron Fleming (T)
- Tre’ Jackson (G)
- Ted Karras (G)
- Shaq Mason (G)
- Nate Solder (T)
- Joe Thuney (G)
- LaAdrian Waddle (T)
Offensive Lineman not under contract
Realistically, the Patriots are pretty much set with their offensive line. With that being said, lets break the existing sub-positions down individually:
Currently, the Patriots have Solder, Cannon, Fleming and Waddle at tackle. Veteran Sebastian Vollmer was released just before the legal tampering period began and is expected to retire. With Solder and Cannon under contract and playing well, there isn’t a need for another starting caliber Tackle for this year. Waddle and Fleming provide the depth but could be improved upon by signing a journeyman veteran who isn’t looking for a big contract. With Solder’s contract expiring in 2017, look for the Patriots to draft a Left Tackle either this year or next year.
The guard position is where the Patriots have the most players, with seven in total. Jackson, Karras, Mason and Thuney are all mid-round draft picks from the previous two years and are seen as the future of the interior. Barker, Douglas and Farris are futures contract guys that are fighting for a roster spot. Mason and Thuney were decent starters last year but will need to improve in order to keep their places in the long-term. I predict that they will continue as starters with Jackson and Karras as versatile backups. With so much youth at the position, bringing in a veteran would only stunt the growth of the group that has an average age of 23.5.
David Andrews is the only player listed as a center on the roster, however both Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason could play the position in a pinch. The knock on Andrews so far in his career is that he is relatively undersized at 295lbs and can get over-powered. While Andrews’ play has been good for an undrafted free agent, he is what he is, a guy outplaying his supposed talent. A veteran signing to compete solely for the center spot would not go amiss.
Free Agent Offensive Linemen
Jordan Mills (Tackle)
- Mills is the prototypical journeyman offensive lineman. Three teams in his four seasons in the league so far. He has started 13 games or more three times in his career with Chicago and Buffalo. That gives the 26-year-old invaluable starting experience for a relatively low draft pick (5th round in 2013). He has been a right tackle, throughout his college and NFL career so versatility could be an issue here.
John Sullivan (Center)
- Sullivan, the former Vikings stalwart, is turning 32 at the start of the season but he has been a consistent mid-range starter in the NFL for six of his eight seasons. Despite his tenure, Sullivan only signed an $885,00 contract last year (according to spotrac.com). This was mainly due to micro fracture surgery he had to have on his left knee in 2016. If Sullivan can regain his old form he could be a valuable asset.
Versatility and availability are two qualities that the Patriots value highly. If John Sullivan can return to his Minnesota form, he represents outstanding value at the position. As we have seen with Jadeveon Clowney, micro fracture injuries can take years to heal so he might not be an option. Overall, the Patriots have a very strong unit. Furthermore, don’t expect too many big splashes from the Patriots.