What Does Robert Gallery's Retirement Mean for the New England Patriots?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IAugust 4, 2012

SEATTLE - AUGUST 20:  Guard Robert Gallery #72 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field on August 20, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The Vikings won 20-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In today's unexpected news, offensive guard Robert Gallery unexpectedly retired from the NFL, the team announced on Saturday.

Once upon a time, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick lauded Gallery as the best player in the 2004 NFL draft, even going as far as to say he would have taken the tackle with the No. 1 overall pick.

When Belichick said that, I'm sure he wouldn't have even dreamed that Gallery would retire a Patriot. Now, the Patriots are left to figure out what's next.

Up until now, Gallery had been competing (and struggling) to earn a backup spot at either guard position.

Despite his struggles, it seemed he at least had a shot at a roster spot. The backup guards have struggled with the interior defensive linemen, with Logan Mankins (active PUP) and Brian Waters (yet to report to camp) both absent from practice.

But even if Gallery hadn't retired and made the roster, the Patriots may have been faced with his absence anyway. He has missed 18 games in the past three seasons alone, and 24 games in his career.

Donald Thomas had begun to step up in practice, having taken some reps away from Gallery with the first-team offense before Gallery retired. 

His retirement opens up a bit of a battle for a potential roster spot at guard, but the question should be whether there is an open roster spot at all. With Mankins, Waters, Connolly, Thomas and Nick McDonald, the Patriots may not opt to carry another guard. 

Behind Logan Mankins, here's one man's prediction of how the rest of the Patriots depth chart at guard could shape up.

Of course, this is tentative based on:

  1. Whether the Patriots designate Connolly a guard or center;
  2. Whether they designate Nick McDonald a guard or center;
  3. Whether Dan Koppen is retained, and if not, what that means for Connolly positionally; and
  4. Whether Waters actually reports (which he is expected to) or joins Gallery in retirement (which he's not expected to).

Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia already had his hands full with what has become a rebuilding project on the offensive line, but whatever the group ends up being, you can rest assured that Scarnecchia will put them to work and get as much out of them as he possibly can.

Gallery's struggles indicate that may have been an issue if he were on the roster for Week 1. It's just too bad he didn't get to finish his career on less than a sour note.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates.