Heading into the offseason, the offensive line was perhaps the most glaring issue facing the Patriots roster besides their abysmal pass-rushing unit. Left tackle Matt Light was an impending free agent, the Logan Mankins contract saga continued to drag on, and right guard Stephen Neal, one of the team's most consistent performers for the past seven seasons, decided to retire.
The Patriots immediately addressed the issue this past April when the team selected left tackle Nate Solder out of Colorado with the 17th pick in the first round. Solder has been extremely impressive so far in camp and also during the team's first two preseason games. There is even some speculation he could soon become the starter at left tackle even with the re-signing of Matt Light, who signed a two-year deal with the Patriots earlier this month.
Then came the moment that every Patriots fan had anxiously been waiting for, the re-signing of Logan Mankins, perhaps the best left guard in the game today. Not only did the deal lock up one of the game's premiere offensive linemen for the next six seasons, but it also ended the ugly soap opera that had been surrounding the team since last season regarding his contract negotiations.
Incumbent center Dan Koppen is back for his ninth season with the team, and third-year man Sebastian Vollmer is back at right tackle after being named a Second Team All-Pro in 2010. This leaves the only question at right guard, where sixth-year player Dan Connolly is expected to step in and take over for the retired Neal this season. Connolly played well in 14 games last season, starting 13 of them due to the mounting injuries that plagued Neal toward the end of his career.
As far as backups go, Ryan Wendell has pretty much solidified his status as a roster lock due to his ability to play both guard positions as well as center. Yet the last offensive line spot goes to an undrafted rookie out of Temple, one who was actually a tight end during his college years. He goes by the name of Steve Maneri, and he has been so impressive in camp so far that the team felt comfortable enough to release offensive tackle Mark LeVoir this week. LeVoir was originally expected to be the No. 1 backup at the offensive tackle position, but it seems as though Maneri is set to take over this role in 2010.
Who makes the cut: Matt Light, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell, Steve Maneri
Side note: Rookie guard Marcus Cannon is also expected to be added to the active roster once he is activated from the PUP list sometime around Week 6.