Patriots Offseason Positional Breakdown: Offensive Line
This article will make some assumptions, that all players on the current roster will return healthy and that all players on the current roster will be on the roster come time for preseason. Both large assumptions, but what else can you do on February 28th? In addition, I omitted players that are super long shots.
2013 starters: Sebastian Vollmer (RT), Nate Solder (LT), Logan Mankins (LG), Dan Connolly (G)
Signed Backups: Marcus Cannon (T), Markus Zusevics (T), Josh Kline (G)
Losses to FA: Will Svitek (T), Ryan Wendell (G/C)
The biggest change going into 2014 for the Patriots will be the loss of Dante Scarnecchia. He had been a rock for the Patriots for 30 or so years and his presence will be greatly missed. It will be the first time a Tom Brady or Bill Belichick led Patriots offense is expected to function without this important positional coach and will be a huge storyline entering 2014.
The tackle position appears fairly solidified. I don’t expect any FA signings or high draft picks on a pure T. Cannon filled in admirably during Vollmer’s missed time in 2013. Zusevics finished out 2013 with Vollmer on the IR. Depth at the T position will most likely be filled in late rounds or UDFA.
Guard on the other hand is extremely thin for the Patriots. They are losing center Ryan Wendell to Free Agency but his effectiveness was dwindling in 2013 as it was. An upgrade at this position will be a highlight either through the draft or FA. The obvious FA prize this year, if he hit the open market, will be Alex Mack out of Cleveland. Often considered the best at his position, Mack is in his prime and would allow Tom Brady to finish out his career with an experienced center and not have to deal with teaching him. In addition the Patriots will be looking to address the rest of the interior OL for both a potential replacement for Connolly & Mankins as they both age and become more expensive and reserves.
Top FA targets: The more expensive way to fill these position needs but with Scar gone and Brady aging, the investments may be worthwhile.
Alex Mack (C) – As noted above Mack would be the premier option if he hits FA, but he would command premium dollar at a non-premium position, not exactly the Patriot way.
Johnathan Goodwin (C) – Goodwin made about 3.2MM in the final year of his contract with SF. At 35 Goodwin will command much less money and still puts a quality product on the field. He would be a stop-gap solution.
Geoff Schwartz (RG) / Jon Asamoah (RG) – To fill RG the Pats may look the direction of the Chiefs. Both players made less than $2 million this year and most likely will not command top dollar as they were later round picks that don’t seem to stand out.
Top Draft targets: The ideal place to fill the position with youth and cheap contracts. Much more risky though as it is tough to tell what you may be getting at the NFL level.
Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA – Had himself a day at the combine this year posting top performances in every respect. Weighing in at 6’4” 307lbs he has a solid size for the interior line. He played both tackle and guard during college, but is most likely better suited for the inside. After his combine performance the only option to get Su’a-Filo is most likely at #29 and he may not even be available then. The Pats selected Logan Mankins out of Fresno State at #32 in 2005, so there is precedence in the Belichick era of picking a G this high.
David Yankey, Stanford – On the opposite end of the combine performance spectrum, Yankey showed horrible on Saturday. He ran very slow, and showed very little strength. His draft stock appears as though it will plummet, offering the Pats value in the later rounds at a position of need. Yankey has the size and ability, but as of right now it appears the effort and drive are not there. He most likely would be good in pass protection due to his size, but would not offer much value in the run game due to his inability to move.
Travis Swanson, Arkansas – Of all the OL prospects this one screams Belichick the most to me. Swanson is a dependable starter out of Arkansas that started every game he played in and a two-time team captain. Downside is he is most likely only suited for the center position, and we all know how much BB likes his versatility.
Matt Patchan, Boston College – We will hear a lot about Patchan to the Patriots due to his BC connection. He will be available in the later rounds due to his injury history and lack of starter experience, but BB planned it that way anyway. He has NFL bloodlines as his father was drafted in the 3rd round around 30 years ago.