NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The slow developing Offensive Tackle market may be hurting veteran free agents, but it has turned out to benefit the New England Patriots. There are multiple confirmed reports out this morning that the team and Right Tackle Sebastian Vollmer have agreed to a four year contract extension.
Getting Vollmer back in the fold is a big development for the Patriots. At one point, prior to free agency, it appeared that Vollmer was as good as gone.
Prior to the off-season beginning the Patriots faced tough decisions on three “big” free agents Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib. All three play key positions and had a vital role on the team last season. There was a general consensus out that two of the three would be back with the Patriots in some fashion. The Patriots had the opportunity to franchise any of the three for close to 10 million dollars and chose not to. The team wisely chose to let the market decide the price tag and took the risk of potentially losing all three.
It turns out that the general consensus and Bill Belichick were correct. The market played out perfectly for the Patriots as the Offensive Tackle and Cornerback markets were softer than most expected. Both Talib and Vollmer ultimately returned to New England for an AAV much less than the 10 million dollar franchise tag. The consensus was also correct, as now the Patriots have retained two of their “big three” free agents for at least the 2013 NFL Season. I didn’t expect it would be Talib and Vollmer returning and Welker leaving, but never the less they got two of their big free agents back.
Keeping Sebastian Vollmer in a Patriots uniform is impactful for a number of reasons:
1) Resigning Vollmer keeps a very good offensive line in tact for the foreseeable future. Offensive line continuity is vital for contending teams, especially one that has a franchise Quarterback. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Patriots new found running attack as a reason why they worked so hard to get Vollmer back on a multi-year deal.
2) With Vollmer in the fold and the signing of swing tackle Will Svitek last weekend, the Patriots have eliminated what was a big need in the draft. Having limited draft picks and few glaring needs, the team is now able to focus on Wide Receiver, Cornerback or Defensive Line in the early stages of the draft. Fewer needs gives them more flexibility to move around the draft board and reacquire lost draft picks.
3) Now that all the Patriots’ priority free agents are off the market (besides Julian Edelman), they can now focus on adding depth to the roster. I expect them to be active signing veteran free agents to team friendly one year contracts. Don’t be surprised if a pass rusher is added in the next few days. Once Elvis Dumervil’s situation is resolved the dominoes will fall into place. John Abraham is still the most likely, in my opinion, as he has an offer in hand from the Patriots.
Finally, I am anxious to see the financial numbers of Vollmer’s contract. On the first day of free agency, the Indianapolis Colts signed RT Gosder Cherilus to a lucrative 5 year 34.5 million dollar contract, with a cap hit of 7.5 million dollars. Cherilus isn’t near the caliber of player that Vollmer is and I anticipate that the Patriots got “Seabass” back at a much cheaper rate. Once again this is an example of the team gauging the free agent market properly and holding their ground when it comes to their bottom line in negotiations.