Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/25/14

FOXBOROUGH, MA - 2009: Sebastian Vollmer of the New England Patriots poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by NFL Photos)
Tom Brady is by far the most important piece to the New England Patriots’ championship hopes. So, keeping him upright and well protected should be a top priority. Nate Solder and Logan Mankins were two of the NFL’s best blind-side blockers in 2012, keeping Brady comfortable inside the pocket consistently throughout the season. The right side of the line was equally as impressive, led by arguably the best right tackle in football Sebastian Vollmer. But the Patriots will have to make a hefty investment this offseason if they plan on keeping their All-Pro tackle in New England for the foreseeable future –and they should. Tackles are a valued commodity in the NFL and it’s not every day that you come across guys with supreme talent like Vollmer. Through four NFL seasons, Vollmer has developed into a consistent and reliable blocker on Brady’s front side. He has established himself as one of the leagues’ premier pass protectors and become a strong run blocker for Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and the rest of the running backs. Needless to say, he’s turned into one of the most valuable members of the Patriots’ offense, and now he deserves to be paid like one. Vollmer is headed for free agency this offseason and should command some big dollars if he hits the market. The Patriots can’t let their franchise tackle get that close to the long line of suitors awaiting him, though. They need to lock him up now, even before Wes Welker or Aqib Talib. Welker and Talib have commanded the headlines and most of the chatter this offseason, but Vollmer should be the primary focus over the next month. No, he doesn’t post the flashy numbers of Welker or make the eyebrow-raising interceptions like Talib, but his job is to keep Brady safe and that is more important than any single touchdown or turnover. Sure, Vollmer’s injury history is a concern and should raise some red flags about offering him a long-term extension. Vollmer has played in just 51 of the 64 possible games during his four-year career and recurring back problems have limited him to just 21 games over the past two seasons. But even with the lingering issues, the potential reward is well worth the risk in Vollmer. Vollmer won’t be looking for anything like the seven-year, $84 million deal that Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas got two years ago, nor would he command that sort of cash on the open market. At 28 — soon to be 29 — Vollmer may be in line for something a little more than the four years and $22 million Eric Winston got from the Kansas City Chiefs last year. The price doesn’t appear to be too steep and the Patriots don’t need a reliable pair of bookend tackles to protect their most valuable asset. So, paying Vollmer seems like no-brainer at this point. Welker and Talib should be considered ahead of the start of free agency on March 12, but Vollmer needs to be the top priority. If the hopes of another Super Bowl run are going to become a reality in New England, then Brady will be the key. But first he’ll need to be comfortable, and that comfort starts with Vollmer. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here. Pick Six The six biggest Trendsetters of the past week in the NFL Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: Up – RG3′s season-ending knee injury wasn’t pretty, but it looks like the Offensive Rookie of the Year is ahead of schedule. Redskins fans, your prayers may have paid off. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings: Down – Harvin’s trade value might be sky high, but his public perception has to be at an all-time low. It sounds like we have another prima donna wide receiver on our hands. O.J. Simpson: Up – If this guy isn’t living it up inside those barred walls, then I don’t know who is. Even Andy Dufresne didn’t have it this good. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Down – Gronk has been getting some bad press for his offseason antics, including wrestling at a Las Vegas nightclub. But hey, he’s 23 years old, “sorry for partying.” Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: Up – Vick was thought to be destined for the free-agent market, but instead he got $7 million — and what could be $10 million — reasons to stay in Philadelphia. Meanwhile commanding Chip Kelly‘s offense could be just the thing to revive his career. Dennis Dixon, QB, Eagles: Up – For the same reason Vick’s career arc could be on an upward swing, Dixon also may be looking at a big career boost. A reunion with former offensive coordinator Chip Kelly can only be a good omen for the former Oregon quarterback. Also, just a fun note, Dixon’s been on three Super Bowl teams which is as many games as he’s started in the NFL. Chew on that, until next week.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mayweather visited Pacquiao’s hotel room for private meeting

Seahawks GM: Russell Wilson's contract 'presents challenges'

JR Smith: Lack of partying in Cleveland is better than NY

Tom Brady admits he has a cold

Paul Pierce: Computers to blame for lack of NBA trash talk

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Darrelle Revis: I don’t feel sorry for Jets fans

A recent history of Super Bowl injury hullabaloo

DeflateGate football could fetch $50K at auction

Father and son allegedly attack coach over playing time

The AFC North will regress in 2015

Doug Baldwin bringing 'sunblock' to Revis Island

Top five free agent quarterbacks

Report: NFL investigators to consult physicist on Deflategate

5 X-factors for Super Bowl XLIX

Best prop bets about the Super Bowl broadcast

Ten worst teams to ever play in a Super Bowl

Marshawn's new stiff arm to media: You know why I'm here

Six MLB teams going all-in on 2015

Keys to victory for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX

Keys to victory for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX

Grandpa: Marshawn would retire rather than deal with media

Ten best teams that didn't make the Super Bowl

Ranking the NBA’s Coach of the Year candidates

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

5 X-factors for Super Bowl XLIX

Ten worst teams to ever play in a SB

Six MLB teams going all-in on 2015

Patriots' keys to Super Bowl victory

Seahawks' keys to Super Bowl victory

DeflateGate ball could fetch $50K

Doug Baldwin ready for Revis Island

Top storylines for Super Bowl XLIX

Barnes unhappy with NBA over fine

Does MLB need more offense in the modern game?

Re-ranking the Top 25: exposing the biggest flaws

Putting the Cavs’ pieces together

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.