Monday, July 18, 2011
Looking deeper at OT depth chart
By Mike Reiss
Matt Light's future with the Patriots, and the possibility that rookie Nate Solder could start at left tackle from Day 1, were brought up in an earlier blog entry. Those are two big questions when considering who might be paired with returning starter Sebastian Vollmer.
To follow up on that, here is a closer look at the rest of the offensive tackle depth chart, which figures to be a factor in the team's decision-making process at the position once a collective bargaining agreement is reached:
Nick Kaczur (76 games, 69 starts) -- Enters his seventh NFL season, all with the Patriots, after joining the team as a 2005 third-round draft choice. The Patriots thought enough of him in 2009 to ink him to an extension through the 2012 season. Kaczur (6-4, 315) missed the 2010 campaign with a back injury, and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.4 million in 2011. Because of that high figure, and a potential $3 million cap savings if he's cut, some have speculated that Kaczur won't be back. He has experience at both tackle spots, although his best fit is on the right side, where Vollmer has settled in and was named second-team All-Pro in 2010.
Mark LeVoir (32 games, 2 starts) -- Entering his fifth NFL season, and fourth with the Patriots since being claimed on waivers from the Rams, LeVoir (6-7, 310) has filled a role similar to Wesley Britt from 2006-2008 -- a solid depth player who has stepped in when injuries strike and ensured the offense doesn't skip a beat. He has lined up at both left and right tackle, and earned a modest contract extension with the club in 2009, a sign that the team saw something it liked to keep him around. He played one season under former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.
Steve Maneri (0 games, 0 starts) -- After drafting center/guard Ted Larsen (sixth round) and tackle Thomas Welch (seventh round) in 2010, the Patriots essentially decided that Maneri -- a 6-foot-6, 290-pound rookie free-agent out of Rutgers -- was a better fit than both of them. So the team claimed Maneri on waivers from the Texans after letting go of Larsen (11 starts in Tampa in 2010) and Welch (Vikings practice squad in 2010), giving him a valuable spot on the 53-man roster for three weeks before sliding him on to the practice squad. A tight end who is making the transition to tackle, he is a prospect to watch based on what the Patriots sacrificed to acquire him.
EXTRA POINTS: The Patriots could also entertain the possibility of re-signing veteran guard/tackle Quinn Ojinnaka, who was acquired for a 2011 seventh-round draft choice in September of 2010. Ojinnaka appeared in eight games (0 starts) for the Patriots last season and would likely project to a right guard/right tackle role. ... Marcus Cannon, the fifth-round pick out of Texas Christian, could be a consideration at right tackle if there are plans to move Vollmer to the left side and Cannon is deemed ready.