The New England Patriots have made a few moves already along their offensive line this offseason.
Prior to the start of free agency, they kept a pair of their own guys, reportedly agreeing to deals to re-sign interior offensive lineman James Ferentz and offensive tackle Conor McDermott. When free agency began, they added former Denver Broncos offensive tackle Calvin Anderson and former Chicago Bears offensive tackle Riley Reiff.
The signings of Anderson and Reiff appeared to be depth signings at first, especially considering the roles both players had with their prior teams. Anderson, though, found himself starting at left tackle for the Broncos for nearly half of the 2022 season after Garett Bolles suffered a season-ending leg injury and Reiff started the final 10 games of the season at right tackle for the Bears.
But Reiff is making a bit more money than a backup normally would. He’s on a one-year, $5 million deal that came with a $2.7 million signing bonus and $4.15 fully guaranteed as he can earn up to $4 million more in playing time incentives. That’s a bit of a hefty contract for someone who many didn’t think would be in a starting role upon his signing.
#Patriots OT Riley Reiff's contract:
One year, $5M
$2.7M signing bonus
$4.15M total guarantee
$1.45M base salary fully guaranteed
$750k in per-game roster bonuses
Up to $4M in playing time incentives
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) March 16, 2023
That contract seems to hit at something else. Do the Patriots actually have Reiff in line to start at right tackle this season? Maybe, but he also primarily played left tackle prior to joining the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021. So, there’s versatility there.
But that leads us to another question: Are the Patriots considering moving on from Trent Brown? The soon-to-be 30-year-old was okay at left tackle in 2022, though struggled at times when he moved back to the position, which was part of the reason why we all believed offensive tackle was a major need for the Patriots this offseason.
Brown is entering the last season of his two-year contract, so it’s possible New England is just laying some possible options on the table to prepare to move on from him. The Patriots would also clear a good amount of cap space by moving Brown. They’d create $8 million in cap room if they cut from him prior to June 1. If they traded Brown, the Patriots would clear $11 million in cap room, per Over The Cap, certainly not an insignificant amount.
Trent Brown, flexin'. pic.twitter.com/PFWX0QQv7o
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) October 3, 2022
However, moving on from Brown at this time wouldn’t make too much sense. He had a quality season in 2021 at right tackle and by many measures is the Patriots’ best offensive tackle currently on their roster. There aren’t any immediate better solutions than him on the open market either as pretty much all of the top free-agent offensive tackles have already found a new home.
So, surely this can’t be all the Patriots have in mind at offensive tackle, can it?
What the Patriots have done so far at offensive tackle this offseason would seem to indicate they’re planning on nabbing one in the draft in April. It certainly isn’t a bad idea given this year’s group of offensive tackle prospects is widely considered to be a solid group and the Patriots hold the No. 14 overall pick. Plus, the signings of Reiff, Anderson and McDermott would at least give the Patriots an option to start at right tackle at the beginning of the season if they feel a rookie isn’t ready right away.
However, it doesn’t feel like the Patriots are acting with as much urgency to make moves at a premium position that they arguably got the least amount of production at in 2022.
So far, the Patriots’ moves at offensive tackle have left more questions than answers. That isn’t a good thing for a team that needs an answer soon on if their young quarterback is someone they can invest in for the future.