There will be change at several positions for the New England Patriots offense, but unlike last year, the offensive line will not be one of them.
As reported by Field Yates of ESPN Boston, the Patriots reached an agreement with free-agent right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
The return of the starting right tackle also means the return of the entire starting offensive line from 2013. That's five times more consistency than New England had on its line in the transition from 2011 to 2012, when there were changes at four of the five offensive line positions (left tackle, center, right guard, right tackle) from the starting lineup of the previous season.
With so much change at wide receiver, consistency on the offensive line could be key if quarterback Tom Brady has to hold onto the ball a little longer while making his reads.
There were a couple of reasons to believe Vollmer may not be back in a Patriots uniform:
- The Patriots have had success plugging raw talent in on the offensive line, with line coach Dante Scarnecchia holding prestige around the league as one of the best at his craft.
- While the Patriots needed a starting right tackle, some teams are desperate for help at left tackle. Vollmer has experience playing both spots, and is considered one of the NFL's top right tackles.
Why was the market so bare for Vollmer? It may have had something to do with a long history of injuries.
He entered the NFL with back problems, and in 2011, a back injury limited Vollmer to just six games at right tackle, with Nate Solder filling in the blanks. He had a small back procedure in the 2012 offseason, but was able to stay healthy and missed just one game all season. He played 94.5 percent of the snaps in the games he played, the second-highest percentage of his career.
This leaves Julian Edelman as the most notable Patriots free agent still on the market. There have been no reports of any visits with, or contract offers from other teams. It appears likely he'll return, although his season-ending foot injury could be the reason the market has been slow to develop for him.
For now, though, the Patriots have to be very satisfied that they've managed to retain two of their three key free agents.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.