In the franchise tag discussion which has dominated Patriots off-season story lines, Sebastian Vollmer is one of three players who has been mentioned as a possible recipient of the tag, along with Wes Welker and Aqib Talib. The Patriots have until March 12th to franchise or sign Vollmer or he will hit the free-agent market.
An important piece of the Patriots offensive front since being selected in the 2nd round out of 2009, the massive German lineman recently underwent knee surgery, which many believe will decrease his value as a free agent. Furthermore, it may be one reason why it appears the Patriots are willing to part ways with Vollmer and avoid slapping the 9.66 million dollar tag on him.
|Will Vollmer be back in a Pats uniform next year?|
An article printed Friday also illustrates how the Patriots' actions thus far at the Scouting Combine are indicative of Vollmer not returning. While the top-tier of tackles will likely not be around when it's the Pats' turn at the podium; they have spent time with some next-level tackles who likely will. These names, according to the Herald article, include David Bakhitari of Colorado, Ricky Wagner of Wisconsin, and Justin Pugh of Syracuse.
As a freshman, Bakhitari started alongside senior and current Pats starting tackle Nate Solder. Could a potential young, Colorado alumni tackle pairing be in the works? If there is any coach up to the task of developing and making the most of young talent on the line, it is Dante Scharnecchia, consistently proving to be one of the Patriots' best coaches. Another element of attractiveness with Bakhitari is his versatility. At 6'4" 299 lbs., he is capable of playing every position on the line. He spoke about his flexibility and ability to switch positions on the line at the combine:
“I would just love to play,” Bakhtiari said. “Come Sunday, I just want to be on the field, whether that’s left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle, extra tight end, whatever.” (Quote from BostonHerald.com)
The Patriots also have third year tackle Marcus Cannon who could potentially step in as a replacement for Vollmer with some experience, rather than thrusting a rookie in to protect our most valuable asset, #12.
Taking into account the team's clear interest in the tackle position at the combine, the steep price Vollmer would come at, his recent surgery, and the two other priority players with franchise tag potential; the return of Sebastian is looking less likely as March 12th draws closer.
I personally believe that the Patriots should let Vollmer go. I just don't think he is worth the tag, and with the experience the organization and Scharnecchia have with coaching up young lineman, I am confident they can find a taleneted, or at least serviceable replacement. And then there is the knee surgery, which is definite cause for concern and another reason to invest the tag money in Talib or Welker. I think the Patriots should let Vollmer walk, franchise Talib, and work on a 2 year deal with Welker in the area of 16-19 million. Whether Wes would accept a deal like that is unknown, as it is a definite possibility he could get more on the open market.
That being said, finding the right replacement for Vollmer is critically important as Brady needs to be protected. He's getting older but he's still our best player and we've seen over the years his game can become shaky when he takes a few big hits. What do you guys think? Is Vollmer tag-worthy? Vote below.