New England Patriots: Mad scramble for offensive tackles spotlights personnel gaffes

The New England Patriots are in a frenzy trying to obtain any offensive tackle who can actually play..
Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (79) blocks
Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (79) blocks / Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are once again being victimized by their own ineffectual personnel policies. It's no more clear at present than witnessing their current mad scramble to find an offensive tackle (OT) who can actually block someone. Any NFL team neglects this position at its peril. The Patriots did this offseason and now they may face the consequences.

The deficiencies in the team's offensive tackle situation have been obvious. The lack of solid attention to the issue began last offseason and continued this. The team eschewed signing a top OT to complement the sometimes inscrutable, but unquestionably talented Trent Brown.

The team's best move would have been to sign one of the top free-agent tackles, preferably left tackle, Orlando Brown Jr., or right tackle, Mike McGlinchey. Instead, the team went on the cheap and signed two unlikely contributors, Riley Reiff a 34-year-old journeyman, and Calvin Anderson, a waiver-wire level player previously released by the Patriots in 2019. Reiff has been moved to guard and Anderson hasn't played.

In addition, the team also foolishly neglected to use any of their 12, 2023 draft picks to bolster depth at OT and to prepare for the future when both Brown and the then-presumed starting right tackle Reiff are out of contract. They whiffed all around and now the team is in a frenzy to find a tackle, any tackle in whatever way they can. Bill Belichick's worst enemy remains Bill Belichick the general manager.

The New England Patriots are victims of their own ineptitude

In the past few days, the New England Patriots have desperately attempted to rectify a situation of their own creation, the lack of a solid compliment of offensive tackles. The responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of Bill Belichick and his personnel operation.

In a panic buy situation, the Patriots have moved for two tackles, both of whom are waiver-wire variety players. They first traded 2022 fourth-round pick bust, Pierre Strong Jr. for second-year OT, Tyrone Wheatley Jr. from Cleveland. Then they traded a sixth-round pick for OT Vederian Lowe, from the Minnesota Vikings.

This slapdash approach can only be looked at as a last-minute frenzied attempt to rectify what were massive tactical blunders during the entire offseason. These blunders are tactical since the team evidently perceived the strategic need to add players to the OT position. Unfortunately, they made the wrong decisions up and down the line there this entire offseason.

The New England Patriots season is now at risk

New England Patriots head coach and de facto general manager, Bill Belichick was defensive about the OT situation as quoted by Bernd Buchmasser of,

“Well, we drafted three players on the offensive line. I’m not really sure what you’re referring to,” Belichick said during an appearance on WEEI’sThe Greg Hill Show. “We signed Riley Reif. We drafted three players on the offensive line. [David] Andrews, Trent Brown, [Michael] Onwenu and [Cole] Strange are all returning — they’re returning starters for us. And we drafted three players and signed one. So, I’m not really following you.”

Actually, Belichick and Co. didn't draft an offensive tackle at all. Sidy Sow was perhaps looked to as a possible OT, but he actually played guard for most of his college career. And the OT free agent signings like the aforementioned Reiff, and Anderson, and the re-signed Conor McDermott are hardly going to move the needle (or any defensive players very well for that matter) either for the coach or his quarterbacks.

Winning teams are built in the offseason in the NFL and in any team sport. Most building blocks are set in place then. If you mess up that aspect of team building, i.e. free agency, and the draft, you tempt sealing an unfortunate fate for your team during the regular season.

Now those proverbial chickens have come home to roost for Belichick and his personnel operation. They now are desperately scrambling to try to plug the hole that was obvious to observers in any way they possibly can. Unfortunately, those horses, free agency and the draft, have left the barn.

Unfortunately, until and unless the team makes a major move involving trading a solid starting player and/or a higher draft pick, they will likely continue to throw mud at the wall and little will stick. You are what you create in the offseason. At OT, the New England Patriots have dug themselves a hole from which they may not be able to dig themselves out.