Free-agent fit: Offensive line

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
8:30
AM ET
Ninth and final installment in a multi-part series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 12.

Position: Offensive line

Players under contract for 2013: LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, C/G Nick McDonald, OT Markus Zusevics

Level of need: Moderate

[+] EnlargeVollmer
Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsAmong the Patriots' Big Three free agents, Sebastian Vollmer seems like the least likely to return.
Projected top targets: RT Eben Britton (Jaguars), G Donald Thomas (Patriots), RT Sebastian Vollmer (Patriots)

Why Britton fits: If Vollmer departs, and the Patriots bump Marcus Cannon up the fictional pre-draft depth chart at right tackle, a player like the 6-foot-6, 308-pound Britton could be a reclamation project worth exploring at a minimum-level type deal as a Plan B option (with more additions possible in the draft). Britton, a high second-round pick in 2009, lost his starting job last season and would represent a low-risk, high-reward situation. Put him in the Dante Scarnecchia School for Offensive Linemen and see what happens.

Why Thomas fits: He proved to be a solid fill-in at both guard positions, playing 48 percent of the offensive snaps in 2012 for the Patriots and holding his own. He could get starter-type consideration elsewhere, but if he doesn’t, the Patriots could address depth concerns by bringing him back with a bump in pay.

Why Vollmer fits: As noted by teammate Logan Mankins, when Vollmer is healthy he’s one of the best in the NFL at his right tackle position. The Patriots and Vollmer’s representatives aren’t aligned on a contract at this time, so the market will be a big factor in dictating his future.

Other names of note: Sam Baker (Falcons), Kevin Boothe (Giants), Jermon Bushrold (Saints), Gosder Cherilus (Lions), Ryan Harris (Texans), Russ Hochstein (Chiefs), Winston Justice (Colts), Dan Koppen (Broncos), Andy Levitre (Bills), Phil Loadholt (Vikings), Sean Locklear (Giants), Jake Long (Dolphins), Brandon Moore (Jets), Rich Ohrnberger (Cardinals), Matt Slauson (Jets), Andre Smith (Bengals), Donald Thomas (Patriots), Jeremy Trueblood (Buccaneers), Louis Vasquez (Chargers).

Market conditions: A lot of good players available, which is rare to see. Teams looking to upgrade up front have a lot of options from which to choose. The draft is also considered deep.

Questions to answer at position: Will another team pay big money to Sebastian Vollmer? … Is Marcus Cannon ready to step up at right tackle if Vollmer departs? … What is the best avenue to build more depth – draft or free agency?

YOUR TURN: Which of these would you like to see in a Patriots uniform? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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