Editor’s Note: NESN.com will evaluate and analyze one potential Patriots free agent addition everyday from February 18 through the start of NFL free agency on March 12.
The Patriots already have a franchise left tackle on their roster in the form of Nate Solder. But the future on the right side isn’t quite as certain.
Sebastian Vollmer is headed toward free agency after four solid seasons in New England, and the Patriots are still deciding whether he will be part of their future plans. Vollmer might be the best pass protecting right tackle in the NFL today, but concerns over recurring back problems are keeping Bill Belichick from extending him the massive contract extension he’s earned.
So, if Vollmer doesn’t return, the Patriots will have to look elsewhere for someone to protect Tom Brady‘s strong side, which is where a former local college product may come into play.
Gosder Cherilus was a standout at Boston College throughout the mid-2000s, which allowed Belichick and company more than enough opportunity to see the 2008 first-round pick’s entire skill set. Now, after five stellar seasons in Detroit, Cherilus is staring down a trip to the free agent market, and the Patriots may be in need of his services.
Cherilus has been durable through his young NFL career, missing just five games in five seasons and playing all 16 games three times. This would be highlighted in comparison to Vollmer, as the Patriots’ current right tackle has missed 13 games in just four seasons.
He’s also developed into a very reliable pass protector, allowing just five sacks in 2012 which is slightly less than the 5 1/2 Vollmer allowed last season. He’s also a very high-character person, which would fall in line with “the Patriot Way.”
The only real fault that Belichick and the Patriots might find with the 6-foot-7, 325-pound behemoth is his bloated penalty numbers. Cherilus notched career highs with nine penalties for 67 yards in 2012, which were six flags and 47 yards more than Vollmer received. Belichick doesn’t take kindly to unforced errors and while Cherilus had gone three consecutive seasons with five penalties or fewer, the enlarged figure from last season could raise a red — err, yellow — flag.
His price tag would likely be lower than Vollmer’s but the production might not be quite the same either. Not to say there would be a significant drop off, but there would be a decline of some sort.
As a free agent on the market — if he even gets that far — Cherilus would have suitors ready with cash to spend. The Patriots may not be willing to dish out a five-year deal worth upward of $30 million for a right tackle with penalty problems, but he’s at least a viable back-up plan.
Cherilus offers plenty to desire and few concerns for the Patriots. But, in the end, if Vollmer does decide to walk at least they know there is a solid contingency plan available.
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Photo via Instagram/Gosder Cherilus