NFL Nation: Sebastian Vollmer

New England Patriots season wrap-up

January, 22, 2014
1/22/14
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final power ranking: 4
Preseason power ranking: 6

Biggest surprise: How about a murder charge to a tight end who had previously been thought of as a centerpiece of the team? Aaron Hernandez's murder charge threatened to sink the Patriots' season before it even started, but in a credit to Bill Belichick, his staff and the players, it was hardly a distraction as they once again advanced to the AFC Championship Game. There were no on-field surprises that could come close to topping that.

.Biggest disappointment: Rob Gronkowski's knee injury Dec. 8. This falls into the wider-ranging category of “season-ending injuries to top players” and the Patriots had their fair share early in the season -- defensive tackles Vince Wilfork (Sept. 29) and Tommy Kelly (Oct. 6), linebacker Jerod Mayo (Oct. 13), and starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (Oct. 27). But Gronkowski’s felt like a season-changer in some respects, deflating some of the optimism that had been built up at that point because the offense looked markedly different with him back on the field.

Biggest need: Re-signing cornerback Aqib Talib. The four-game stretch of football he played from Sept. 22 to Oct. 13 was as impressive as we’ve seen from a Patriots cornerback in recent memory, the highlight coming when he was matched up against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and held him without a catch before leaving in the third quarter with injury. The 2013 season showed how the Patriots’ defense is different with a healthy No. 1 matchup option like Talib, with the final piece of evidence coming in the AFC Championship Game when he left with a knee injury in the second quarter.

Team MVP: It has to be quarterback Tom Brady, with Talib, receiver Julian Edelman and kicker Stephen Gostkowski the other strong candidates. This was a “do more with less” type season for Brady, similar to 2006, and he willed the offense to productive results despite almost a complete overhaul. He’s the consummate leader, almost like another coach, and the Patriots don’t advance to the conference championship without him.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Running back Brandon Bolden was not spotted at the start of Friday morning's rainy New England Patriots practice, which sparked the following question: Could this open the door for Stevan Ridley to return to the 46-man game-day roster?

Ridley
Ridley
Bolden hasn't been listed on the team's injury report this week and the absence could be non-injury related. More details regarding Bolden's absence should be learned around 4 p.m. ET when the official participation report is released.

The Patriots dressed three running backs for last Sunday's win against the Texans -- Shane Vereen (41 of 70 snaps), LeGarrette Blount (20 snaps) and Bolden (9) -- which left Ridley on the sidelines. Since that decision, one of the top storylines surrounding the team is if Ridley will continue to be a healthy scratch, or if he might re-emerge in some form. Bolden's status could have a direct impact on the answer.

The other area of note that caught the eye at practice was seeing fill-in starting right tackle Will Svitek's right ankle heavily taped. Svitek landed on the injury report Wednesday, leaving the Patriots vulnerable at tackle because starter Sebastian Vollmer (leg) is on season-ending injured reserve and top backup Marcus Cannon (ankle) remains out of practice.

Also with receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) not practicing, it essentially rules him out Sunday for the second straight game.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard wasn't present for the second day in a row as he is due in court for a second day in Nebraska.

Sharing Patriots halftime thoughts

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
2:25
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing a few thoughts at halftime, as the New England Patriots trail the Miami Dolphins, 17-3:

Ugly half of football. This has been one of the Patriots' worst halves of the season. The tone was set by Tom Brady's interception on the team's second offensive play -- an inaccurate delivery to tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was a bad throw by Brady, who might be dealing with discomfort with the middle and ring fingers on his throwing hand.

Where's Ridley? Running back Stevan Ridley, the team's leading rusher in 2012, was limited to six snaps in the first half (not including final kneel-down) as the Patriots went mostly with Brandon Bolden (15 snaps), while mixing in LeGarrette Blount (starter who totaled 5 snaps). A bit of a head-scratcher there.

Cole over Ryan at cornerback. Without top cornerback Aqib Talib, the Patriots started Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington at the position, with Marquice Cole playing the nickelback role. It was Cole who overran receiver Brandon Gibson on the Dolphins' first touchdown. The Patriots used rookie cornerback Logan Ryan in that role last week, but he hasn't played a defensive snap today, with Cole getting the nod over him.

Dolphins sparked by run. Miami ran the ball 21 times in the first half, and you wonder if the same approach would be taken if the Patriots had Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly at defensive tackle, and Jerod Mayo at linebacker. The Patriots just aren't as sturdy in the front seven and the Dolphins are taking it to them. Credit goes to the Dolphins for executing and winning the critical situations.

Injury report. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer left with a right leg injury and has already been ruled out. Looked like the season-ending type, but that hasn't been confirmed. That thrusts third-year player Marcus Cannon into the statring mix at right tackle, with veteran Will Svitek now the top backup.

Patriots get the ball. The Patriots had won the opening toss and elected to defer, so they will receive the opening kickoff of the second half. The home crowd booed the Patriots as they kneeled on the ball at the end of the second quarter.

W2W4: Dolphins at Patriots

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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With Rob Gronkowski returning to the field in Week 7, the speculation that previously permeated throughout each week about his availability no longer exists. As Gronkowski said Wednesday, his focus can be geared toward the upcoming opponent and not become distracted by questions about whether he’ll be available to play on Sunday.

His return was an impactful one, despite the team falling in overtime, as he hauled in eight catches for 114 yards.

But while they got back arguably their best player not named Tom Brady, the Patriots aren’t entirely out of the woods yet on the injury front. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion/groin) has practiced on a limited basis this week and is listed as questionable to play Sunday. Cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), who has also practiced on a limited basis this week, also is questionable for Week 8.

The Patriots always put a premium on division games, and they’ll play their fourth of the season on Sunday and their first against the Miami Dolphins, who were hopeful to make the leap this season after a 7-9 campaign in 2012. While the Patriots are looking to bounce back from a disappointing Week 7 loss, the Dolphins are try to break a three-game losing streak and climb back above .500.

When the two square off on Sunday, here’s what we’ll be looking for.

1. Talib and Amendola’s availability. Amendola was the team’s most notable offseason acquisition, while Talib has proven to be an indispensable member of this defense. Getting both of them back for Sunday would be a boon for the Patriots, as the offense needs Amendola to help kick-start its production, while Talib is playing like one of the best cornerbacks in all of football. The Dolphins haven’t been able to generate much on the ground this season, but with a receiving corps that features Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and a capable slot presence in Brandon Gibson, getting Talib back would be a big step in slowing down their passing game. Two players we know the Patriots won’t have: defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (knee) and running back Leon Washington (ankle), who have been ruled out by the team.

2. Can Brady find his rhythm? Brady hasn’t lost any confidence despite recent struggles, as he shouldn’t have. That being said, the veteran quarterback needs to raise his level of play as the season progresses, as he’s completed fewer than 56 percent of his throws. The Patriots' offense has dealt with moving parts, but the potential to have Gronkowski and Amendola on the field at the same time opens things up. Can the offense get it going against a Dolphins defense that made steep investments on players at all three levels this offseason?

3. Exposing the Dolphins' pass protection. The Dolphins made the decision to pass on Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson when they traded up to the third pick in this year’s draft to grab defensive end Dion Jordan. With second-year player Jonathan Martin struggling, the team acted on a trade opportunity to acquire veteran Bryant McKinnie from Baltimore this past week, which could eventually swing Martin over to the right side and move Tyson Clabo into a reserve role. Regardless of who mans the left side, the Patriots have an opportunity to generate pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Veteran Andre Carter, signed this week, isn’t likely to start for the team, but he could be an effective edge rusher with a natural nose for the quarterback.

4. Containing the Dolphins' pass rush. By the numbers, the Dolphins' pass rush hasn’t been particularly strong, but that’s due in part to time missed by standout Cameron Wake, who is now healthy after dealing with a knee issue earlier this season. Bill Belichick said of Wake: “He’s just a good football player. I don’t think there’s any one thing that just jumps off about him. It’s just all solid and good. He plays strong, he’s athletic, he’s active. He can rush the edge but he can also rush with power. He’s got a good variety of moves.” Wake, who primarily aligns on the defense’s left side, will be the responsibility of Sebastian Vollmer to contain. Vollmer has been his usual solid self this season, and Sunday will mark yet another test for the towering right tackle.

5. Punt game in focus. Dolphins punter Brandon Fields leads the league in both gross and net punting, a testament to both his strong leg and directional punting ability. But the Dolphins have allowed an average of 9.9 yards per return, which could be tied to Fields at times outkicking his coverage. Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is the NFL's active leader in punt-return average, and he had a brilliant return against the Jets last weekend. He’s the only NFL player to return a punt for a touchdown in each of the past three seasons, and he may have a chance to find space and room to maneuver if Fields unloads on a punt.

Sebastian Vollmer returns to practice

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
11:42
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After missing the previous two days of practice, New England Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was on the field Friday morning as the team prepares to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night.

Vollmer reportedly sprained his foot and was seen on the field Friday with tape on his left foot.

Wide receiver Matthew Slater (wrist) did not participate in practice.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) and Danny Amendola (groin) were on the field.

Practice report: Vollmer status in doubt

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Starting New England Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer did not participate in practice for the second straight day, putting his status in doubt for Sunday night’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Vollmer has a sprained foot, according to the Boston Herald, which reported it wasn’t expected to keep Vollmer sidelined for an extended period of time. Third-year player Marcus Cannon would start in place of Vollmer.

One reason the right tackle position is critical is that one of the Falcons’ most disruptive defensive players is end Osi Umenyiora. Patriots coach Bill Belichick mentioned Wednesday that the Falcons flip Umenyiora to each side, so if Cannon is pressed into duty, there could be times he’s matched up against Umenyiora.

This would be Cannon’s second career regular-season start, although he has played extensively in a reserve/rotational role.

In addition, tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) and receiver Danny Amendola (groin) were both limited in practice for the second straight day.

Overall, here were no changes on the team’s injury report from Wednesday.

 

 

Quick-hit thoughts after third quarter

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
3:27
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Entering the final quarter of play, the New England Patriots lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-3. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter:

1. Pass rush getting it done. Seemingly picking up where it left off last week, the Patriots' pass rush has been productive thus far, generating three sacks. Defensive end Chandler Jones has been a factor, registering two separate half sacks, with defensive tackle Tommy Kelly helping out for an opening drive sack to stop a Bucs drive.

2. Vollmer banged up. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was replaced on the team's first drive of the second half by Marcus Cannon, with Vollmer spending time at the start of the half speaking with members of the team's medical staff. The Patriots announced that he is questionable to return with a foot injury. For the Bucs, star wide receiver Vincent Jackson is questionable to return with a rib injury.

3. Brady picked in the end zone. The Patriots had a razor-sharp drive going before an uncommon mistake from Tom Brady in the end zone: He threw an interception right into the hands of safety Mark Barron, resulting in a touchback. Brady and rookie receiver Aaron Dobson couldn't connect on what should have been a score just two plays earlier.

4. Defense tightening up. The Patriots defense has really settled in after allowing the Bucs deep into their own territory to open the game. They've forced two turnovers on downs and intercepted Josh Freeman on another play. Doug Martin has been held in check, limited to just 78 yards on 18 carries.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the third quarter: right tackle Marcus Cannon (false start) and defensive end Chandler Jones (neutral zone infraction).
The New England Patriots have one of the top offensive tackle combinations in the NFL with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. But that hasn't stopped the reigning AFC East champions from searching for depth in the NFL draft.

A source tells ESPN.com's AFC East blog that New England recently held a private workout with Valdosta State offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder. He is a big and athletic small-school prospect who has the potential to develop with the right coaching. Schraeder, who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 304 pounds, is considered a sleeper because of his lack of experience.

Schraeder has an interesting story. He grew at an enormous rate in high school and college, but didn't play organized football until three years into college.

He played one year at Butler community college and one year at Division II Valdosta State -- and that was enough to get noticed. In addition to the Patriots, Schraeder also worked out with the Atlanta Falcons.
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.

The New England Patriots lost two starting wide receivers in free agency. But the Patriots were not about to let quarterback Tom Brady also lose his protection on the offensive line.

Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com reports New England has reached an agreement with free-agent right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. This is a wise move to keep the Patriots' stout offensive line intact, especially with Brady (35) getting up there in age.

Vollmer was a key cog to New England's success passing and running the football. The Patriots led the NFL in total offense in 2012. Brady threw for 4,827 yards and tailback Stevan Ridley rushed for a career-best 1,263 yards. Vollmer played a key role in both players' successful season.

Vollmer is very tough and played well through injuries last season. He started 15 games in the regular season and two additional games in the playoffs. He joins former first-round pick Nate Solder as a solid and versatile offensive-tackle combination for New England.

The Patriots were smart to act quickly this weekend. The offensive tackle market opened up after former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long recently signed with the St. Louis Rams. Interest had picked up with other offensive tackles such as Vollmer, Eric Winston and Andre Smith.

The Patriots made sure they kept their guy in Vollmer. After the high-profile Wes Welker debacle, this is one free-agent move on offense that should make Brady smile a little.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each AFC East team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills have been losers in free agency mostly due to inactivity. Buffalo made just one signing: linebacker Manny Lawson. With a new head coach and new schemes on offense and defense, the Bills need a lot more than one linebacker to be competitive next season. Most importantly, they need to find a quarterback after cutting former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Buffalo also lost starting guard Andy Levitre, linebacker Nick Barnett, veteran safety George Wilson and receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson. The team has yet to fill those holes. Interestingly, the Bills were major players in free agency a year ago. They signed defensive end Mario Williams to a $100 million contract and made several other signings. However, Buffalo finished 6-10 in 2012 and decided to take a much quieter approach in 2013.

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are big winners in free agency. They landed the best wide receiver on the market (Mike Wallace) and the top linebacker (Dannell Ellerbe). Miami also signed a pass-catching tight end (Dustin Keller) and an additional, athletic linebacker (Philip Wheeler). Miami’s roster looks much stronger and more dynamic than it did heading into the 2012 season, when the team went 7-9. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said it was his goal to close the gap with the New England Patriots. Ireland deserves a lot of credit for a solid game plan and executing it well. The Dolphins still have holes to fill at cornerback, left tackle and at pass-rusher. But Miami still has cap room to spend and 11 total draft picks next month. The Dolphins are not finished adding talent.

New England Patriots: The Patriots have had mixed results in free agency. But overall I would just barely put them in the winners' category. I do not like what they've done on offense, where they lost two starting receivers: Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. The pair accounted for 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. That's a lot of lost production that Danny Amendola and Donald Jones -- New England's two free-agent signings at receiver – will not be able to match. The Patriots also haven't re-signed starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who remains a free agent. New England must patch these two holes offensively. On the other hand, I like what New England has done defensively. The Patriots solidified their secondary by signing former Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson and re-signing No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib. They also re-signed backup corners Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole and added exciting kick returner Leon Washington on special teams.

New York Jets: The Jets are huge losers so far in free agency. They lost talented players much faster than they can replace them. Former New York starters Shonn Greene, Keller, LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Sione Pouha, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace were either recently released or signed with other teams. The Jets are hamstrung by a tight salary cap. Therefore, first-year Jets general manager John Idzik has been forced to bargain shop. New York made several low-cost signings, such as tailback Mike Goodson and guard Willie Colon. But overall, the Jets have more holes than they can fill in one offseason.
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.
The Miami Dolphins lost one of their franchise centerpieces in free agency Monday. Left tackle and former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long left Miami for the St. Louis Rams with a four-year, $35 million contract.

SportsNation

How should Miami replace LT Jake Long?

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Discuss (Total votes: 6,186)

Long's departure marks the end of an era in Miami. He had five years and four Pro Bowls for the Dolphins. But now it is time to move on.

Who will replace Long in Miami? There are several options for the Dolphins.

Will Miami look to free agency? There are still available offensive tackles such as Eric Winston, Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith. The Dolphins still have money to spend to add a veteran offensive tackle.

What about the NFL draft? The Dolphins hold the No. 12 overall pick, and five selections in the first three rounds. Offensive tackle is one position the team could fill.

Finally, will Miami look in-house? The Dolphins have 2012 second-round pick Jonathan Martin, who started at right tackle most of last season. Martin played left tackle in college and filled in for Long at the end of the season with mixed results.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on how Miami should replace Long. You can also share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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.
Traditional logic in NFL free agency says the biggest fish has to be reeled in before the market for a position is truly set.

Certainly a bunch of free-agent tackles around the NFL are hoping that’s the case after Jake Long struck a deal with the St. Louis Rams Sunday night on a four-year deal that could be worth $36 million.

But it is really true that the top guy has to go first?

[+] EnlargeGosder Cherilus
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsWith a five-year, $34.5 million deal, the Indianapolis Colts recently made ex-Detroit Lion Gosder Cherilus one of the highest-paid right tackles in the NFL.
Gosder Cherilus got a big contract from Indianapolis (five-year deal, $34.5 million), Jermon Bushrod moved to Chicago for five years and $35.97 million. Phil Loadholt did pretty well re-signing with Minnesota (four-year deal, $25 million) well before anything happened with Long.

Taking out Denver’s Ryan Clady and Kansas City’s Branden Albert, who both received franchise tags, ESPN.com’s free-agent tracker lists 41 free-agent tackles.

Before Long got his deal, 10 of them had contracts, five with their old team, five with new clubs.

With 24 percent of the market having found work, I wouldn’t say Long was needed to set the market.

(Similarly at cornerback -- we saw Greg Toler sign in Indianapolis and Bradley Fletcher sign in Philadelphia well before Aqib Talib got a new contract in New England. And Brent Grimes and Nnamdi Asomugha are still available.)

What’s more accurate with regard to tackles is to say Long needed to go first in the pecking order of CAA, the agency that represents him, along with Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith, two of the top three remaining tackles along with Eric Winston.

In the AFC South, the Colts (with Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas) and the Titans (with guard Andy Levitre) have likely finished their front-line offensive line work and will resume addressing their lines in April's draft.

But Jacksonville has a couple of gaping holes at left guard and right tackle.

Will the Jaguars make a move with one of the top remaining options? Nothing they’ve done so far suggests they’ll spend big dollars on one guy, even with such large holes looming. If more time passes and players get increasingly antsy, maybe there is a point at which Jacksonville would see value and get involved.

I am not so sure we’re about to see a big spurt of tackle activity now that Long has signed.

But that’s the thing about free-agency shopping. It’s hardly easy to predict when to show interest and when guys will bite on offers.

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