By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It may not seem that way right now, but the Patriots sneaky need help at offensive tackle.
They sure look set at the tackle position for 2017, with Nate Solder manning Tom Brady’s blind side and Marcus Cannon suddenly emerging as one of the better right tackles in the National Football League. But beyond next season? The future is not so clear.
That’s why Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia are, ostensibly, preparing to take at least one tackle in April’s NFL Draft. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweeted on Friday that the Patriots are working out Villanova tackle Brad Seaton, who has also worked out for the Bills and Texans. Wilson previously reported that Scarnecchia worked out Bucknell left tackle Julie’n Davenport on Monday.
The 6-foot-7 Davenport is ranked 143rd overall on CBS Sports’ NFL Draft prospect rankings, 13th at the tackle position. He’s projected to be drafted in the fourth or fifth round.
Seaton, meanwhile, is ranked 761st – so the Pats may not even need to spend a draft pick on him. But then again, Sebastian Vollmer wasn’t projected highly in the 2009 draft but the Patriots took him in the second round. Vollmer was considered a reach at the time, but the pick worked out.
Solder, who turns 29 on April 12, is only signed through 2017 for a $6.5 million base salary. He has a good chance of cashing in big-time as an unrestricted free agent after next season, considering the big contracts doled out to free-agent tackles in the past month. For instance, the Vikings guaranteed $26.3 million to Riley Reiff and the Panthers guaranteed $31 million to Matt Kalil.
As a UFA, Solder could nearly double his salary and land over $25 million guaranteed – which means he’s probably gone from the Patriots, leaving Cannon and Cameron Fleming as the only tackles on the roster. (The Patriots cut Vollmer on March 3.) Even if the Patriots are planning to lose Solder and shift Cannon to left tackle in 2018, they will need to do better than Fleming at right tackle. That’s where this year’s draft comes in.
Bottom line: Don’t be surprised if the Patriots’ highest draft pick, which is currently in the third round, is used to address the offensive line.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.