NFC East: sebastian vollmer

Over the weekend, the news broke that free-agent tackle Sebastian Vollmer had agreed to re-sign with the New England Patriots. Not a huge surprise, but Vollmer's was a name we heard connected with the Philadelphia Eagles early in the free-agent period, and I know some Eagles fans were excited about the possibility of signing Vollmer for right tackle and moving Todd Herremans inside to guard. With Vollmer and Jake Long off the market, the top available tackle is Andre Smith, and the popular belief seems to be that he's headed back to Cincinnati.

Now, the Eagles have the cap room to sign anyone they want to sign, so if they wanted Vollmer or Smith it's likely they'd have them. Or at least that there would have been some drama around their ultimate decisions. It could still happen with Smith, I guess, but the lack of noise in this case likely indicates a lack of serious interest. And as for free-agent guards, the top one available is the Jets' Brandon Moore, and after that our free-agent tracker drops all the way down to Jake Scott, who was most recently an Eagle himself.

So the upshot is that the Eagles don't seem to be pursuing free-agent offensive line help too intensely, possibly in the belief that a full return to health by all of last year's injured starters will be enough or possibly because they plan to draft a new starter with the fourth overall pick in the draft (or the 35th, which isn't a ridiculous idea, either). Most of their free-agent efforts so far have focused on the defensive side of the ball, where their needs were most glaring. But one of last year's many painful lessons in Philadelphia was about the importance of offensive line depth, and so Eagles fans are justified in hoping that there is some sort of plan to fortify that right side. There is time, and there may be a surprise or two still to come. But at this point, things appear to be quiet with the Eagles and the offensive line.
PHOENIX -- The reason the Philadelphia Eagles were active in the early days of free agency wasn't that they set out to be aggressive but rather that they found prices that pleasantly surprised them. So said GM Howie Roseman on Tuesday at the owners' meetings. Roseman cited cornerback Cary Williams and pass-rushing linebacker Connor Barwin as two of the players whose deals he felt were low-risk for the team, and he indicated that the approach would continue. Per Geoff Mosher:
The Eagles can still afford to upgrade their offensive line and find another five-technique defensive end for their 3-4 defensive scheme, but Roseman on Tuesday indicated that he’s not looking to spend on patchwork talent.

“Most importantly, I don’t see a circumstance where we get someone that we think is just a one-year guy,” he said from the Arizona Biltmore lobby at the NFL’s annual owners meetings. “Anything we do at this point would be someone who we think has a future as we build this program, because that’s where we are now.”

If they sign another big name, it likely would be one of the free-agent offensive tackles near the top of the market -- Cincinnati's Andre Smith or New England's Sebastian Vollmer. But since the top tackle, Jake Long, didn't sign until just a couple of days ago, that market has been slow to develop. If it develops in the Eagles' favor, Smith or Vollmer would fit the description of a longer-term solution (as opposed to Eric Winston, who likely would not). But the point Roseman seemed to be trying to make was that the Eagles aren't looking to spend simply because they have cap room.

I think they ought to be players for the tackles as acquiring one would allow them to move Todd Herremans inside to guard and strengthen and deepen their offensive line overall. After last year, when they lost four starting linemen to injury, the Eagles have to be conscious of the importance of quality depth there. Of course, there's also the chance they could take a tackle with the No. 4 pick in next year's draft.
PHOENIX -- The Washington Redskins used the same five starting offensive linemen for 16 of their 17 games last year, and they believe that continuity was a key to the success of the league-best run game. So even though they spent last week picking up potential fallback options like Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle, they wanted 2012 starter Tyler Polumbus back all along. Monday, Polumbus tweeted that he was re-signing with Washington. John Keim reports it's a two-year deal.

It's a good move for the Redskins, whose cap problems prevent them from playing in the deep end of the free-agent tackle pool with guys like Andre Smith and Sebastian Vollmer. Polumbus was something of a surprise as he turned into a reliable starter in place of the perpetually injured Jammal Brown. And while he's not perfect, if you can't upgrade, why not bring back a guy who's been successful in your system?

As we've mentioned a few times here, the Redskins did go 10-6 and win the NFC East last year, so holding together their 2012 roster isn't a terrible idea on its face. To this point, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and reserve linebacker/special teamer Lorenzo Alexander are the only players they wanted to keep and haven't been able to keep. Tight end Fred Davis remains a free agent they're hoping to re-sign.
The first week of free agency saw our division sit on the sidelines a bit, but that doesn't mean you don't have questions, or that I can't try to answer them. So to that end, we go to the Twitter mailbag, which you can access at any time of any day simply by tweeting a question with the hashtag #nfceastmail. I round them up at the end of the week and it goes a little something like this:

Eagles looking for a right tackle

March, 13, 2013
Four of the five signings the Philadelphia Eagles announced Tuesday were on the defensive side of the ball, where they need the most help. But they have an issue on the offensive line as well, and they appear interested in doing some big-name shopping for an offensive tackle. Sources say the Eagles are looking at the tackle market, that they had some interest in Jake Long but appear unlikely to sign him, and that they will take a look at former Bengals tackle Andre Smith and former Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

Smith and Vollmer were right tackles in their previous stops, and the right side of the line is where the Eagles have a need. Assuming left tackle Jason Peters recovers from last summer's Achilles injuries as they expect him to, they could sign a free-agent right tackle and move Todd Herremans inside to guard to replace the disappointing Danny Watkins.

Pro Football Focus ranked Smith as the top right tackle and the No. 4 overall tackle in the league last year. Vollmer ranked as the fourth-best right tackle and 13th-best overall. If they're both hitting the market with expectations for right-tackle money, as opposed to the left-tackle money Long is likely to get, they'd jive with the Eagles' apparent desire to play on the second tier of the market at key positions. Though it is worth mentioning that the Eagles' most likely starting quarterback in 2013 is left-handed Michael Vick, so the right side of the offensive line is his "blind side."

Adding a tackle in free agency would help the Eagles' depth and versatility on the offensive line, which crumbled last year as it lost four starters to injury. And if they're worried about Peters being able to come back, they might have the ability to draft a franchise-caliber tackle with the No. 4 pick in next month's draft. Whoever the Eagles' quarterback is in 2013 and in years beyond will need a quality offensive line in front of him, and there's no team in the league that learned that lesson in more difficult fashion than the Eagles did in 2012.

If you look at the tackle page Insider of our free-agent tracker, you can pick through and find some other names in which you would like the Eagles to have interest. Eric Winston, recently cut by the Chiefs, is another possibility for right tackle. But Smith and Vollmer are the cream of the still-available crop, and if the Eagles are checking them out, that means they're serious about addressing their offensive line.
Does anyone feel as though I've been writing too much about offensive lines lately? No? Good, because that's what this post is about.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer analyzed the free-agent offensive line landscape as it pertains to the Philadelphia Eagles. I know we've mainly focused on defense with the Eagles this offseason (and quarterback, which remains an apparently unsolvable mess), but the offensive line situation in Philadelphia is an interesting one. The best way for them to improve is for the starters who missed time last year due to injury -- Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans -- to return to full health. That would drastically improve things on the line, and there appears to be a strong chance that happens. But even if it does, the Eagles could tinker with the right side of their line in an effort to improve there:
If Peters, Kelce, and Herremans return to their pre-injury form, the Eagles should be fine. But there's still an issue with Watkins at right guard, and Mathis (31 years old), Peters (31), and Herremans (30) aren't getting any younger.

The aging of the line's core suggests that the Eagles could use the draft -- and perhaps the fourth overall pick -- to add youth. They could target one of three tackles (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, or Lane Johnson) or a guard (Chance Warmack) with their first-round pick.

The Eagles could instead stock their line with some later-round picks and use free agency to fill the one glaring hole on the line. Of the Eagles' current starting five, only Watkins -- a 2011 first-round pick -- was taken before the third round.

One player the Eagles could consider is right tackle Eric Winston, who was released on Wednesday by the Chiefs.

I like the idea of a tackle for the Eagles at No. 4 because of the flexibility it offers them. It would be someone who could play left tackle if Peters can't make it all the way back from his devastating injuries of last summer or someone who could play right tackle, move Herremans back inside and perhaps someday take over at left tackle when Peters is done. Makes a lot of sense.

If they decide they would rather take a defensive lineman or cornerback Dee Milliner at that spot, Jeff points out that the free-agent market for right tackles is very deep. Winston is one option, as are Andre Smith and Sebastian Vollmer. With all of the cap room they have, the Eagles could target and likely sign anyone they want.

The plan of getting a right tackle, moving Herremans back to guard and cutting the cord on Danny Watkins makes a lot of sense for the Eagles. The line was supposed to be a strength of their team last year, and if everyone hadn't got hurt, it likely would have been. The lesson is that depth and flexibility at those positions is something for which to strive.
Tyler Polumbus is eligible for free agency and was never a perfect solution for the Washington Redskins at right tackle to begin with. Sure, the Redskins' line had a good year with Polumbus starting on the right side. The Redskins led the league in rushing yards, so it obviously couldn't have been all bad. But the threat of running quarterback Robert Griffin III likely helped the line look better than it was. Pro Football Focus rated Polumbus the No. 77 tackle in the NFL in 2012.

The questions is the extent to which the cap-strapped Redskins can or need to make right tackle a priority in free agency or the draft, and I don't think you should be surprised if it turns out to be a low one.

There are a number of very good right tackles available in free agency, which could have the effect of diluting the market and landing someone very good in the Redskins' lap at a reasonable price. New England's Sebastian Vollmer heads the list along with Cincinnati's Andre Smith (who likely brings a bit too much knucklehead risk) and guys like Phil Loadholt. And even though they don't hold a first-round pick, it's not inconceivable that they could find a starting right tackle in the second or third round. Especially when you consider that Mike Shanahan's offense looks for specific kinds of linemen suited for zone-blocking, and not every team is looking for the same type of player.

But given the team's needs on defense in the secondary, and given the decisions that need to be made about the contract situations of key players such as Brian Orakpo, Fred Davis and Darrel Young, I wouldn't be surprised if they brought back Polumbus or found an even more economical solution than that. Shanahan told me in training camp, when people were still worried about whether Jammal Brown could stay healthy enough to play right tackle, that the important thing for him was health and continuity on the line -- that even if Polumbus might not be the same caliber player as Brown, he'd rather have him at 100 percent than wonder from week to week how much he could count on Brown. The Redskins believe that a large part of their offensive success this season was a product of starting the same five offensive linemen in 16 of their 17 games, and if Polumbus wants to come back at their price they could certainly talk themselves into the idea that the line isn't an area of the team that needs changing. And if he doesn't, they could talk themselves into the idea that they can find an adequate replacement.

Point is, given the salary cap problems the Redskins face because of the $18 million in league-imposed penalties they face again this season, they're going to have to prioritize. And they have so many needs at cornerback and safety, they're going to have to use resources to fix holes there. Positions like offensive line and wide receiver, where they could use some help, but did more than just get by in 2012, are likely to head to the back burner while the Redskins make budget-conscious decisions. So as much fun as it might be to shop on that good right tackle market, I doubt you should get your hopes up.