Lookin' for Love: Offensive Line

Have you ever seen one of those couples that are always fighting?

I never understood it, but you see it all the time. Two people, who have been together for years, do absolutely nothing but argue all the time about absolutely everything. They can't even seem to walk down the street without getting into it over who should be walking closest to the sidewalk and whether it makes sense to take a cab or not. They only seem to be happy when they are in a fight, and even then it's hard to tell if they are truly enjoying themselves. Personally, there is nothing I enjoy less than fighting with the girlfriend (especially since 99 times out of 100 whatever we are fighting about is my fault and I know I'm going to have to do some serious groveling), but there are just some couples out there that simply can't get enough drama. And if you happen to be one of the people I just described and it seems to be working well for you, then by all means keep at it; after all, love is an inexact science But I just don't understand how you can have any real stability in a relationship based on conflict. For me, it's all about harmony.

Well, that, and keeping the one that REALLY matters in the relationship safe and happy.

Stability, harmony, and keeping the better half safe and happy is pretty much all I can ask for from New England's offensive line. I know that the O-Line isn't the most exciting place on the football field - but it is undoubtedly one of the most important, especially when they are charged with protecting some extremely precious cargo. The good news is that, for the most part, the Patriots look fairly well-stocked along the line. There are still a few question marks regarding whether or not they will re-sign Dan Koppen/Dan Connolly, and Brian Waters and Matt Light are still contemplating retirement, but for the most part there are enough pieces in place to ensure that Tommy B will have plenty of protection in 2012. However, as last year showed, it can never hurt to have depth at this position, and there will be some quality linemen available next week that aren't likely to command a huge salary.

A look at the available offensive linemen that might be a good fit for New England after the jump.

OUT OF MY LEAGUE

These linemen are all going to come at too high a price, or their original teams will be working hard to retain them. Since O-Line isn't as much an area of need, there is no reason for the Patriots to pursue these guys.

Carl Nicks. Nicks just watched Jahri Evans receive a 7-year, $56.7 million deal in 2010, and he is likely going to want a similar contract. There's no way that the Saints spend that kind of money on two offensive linemen, so odds are Nicks will walk. However, the Patriots already put a lot of money into guard Logan Mankins, and are not going to pick up Nicks's tab. With Brian Waters (hopefully) expected back next year, and Mankins locked up for the foreseeable future, don't expect the Patriots to go anywhere near this one.

Demetrius Bell. In an absolutely porous Bills offensive line, Bell proved to be the lone bright spot. After he went down halfway through the season, Ryan Fitzpatrick started getting lit up on a regular basis. Buffalo has a lot of work to do in the offseason, and one of their priorities should be to ensure that Bell is back with the team next year. Even if he does become a free agent, I would rather see the Patriots continue to develop Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder rather than spend big money on another tackle - albeit a talented one. I don't think it will even get that far, though; look for Bell to stay a Bill.

Jared Gaither. San Diego acquired Gaither in Week 13 after being cut by the Chiefs, and he played exceptionally well in his five starts to close out the season. I think he'll be back with the Chargers, either replacing the injury-prone Marcus McNeill or providing insurance. San Diego can likely re-sign him for relatively little money, and he has definitely earned the trust of the coaching staff. Even if he was available, though, I still like what the Patriots have better.

SO YOU'RE TELLING ME THERE'S A CHANCE...

Both of these players have established a solid role for themselves on their respective teams, and while there is no guaranteeing that they will be back, signs do point that way. If they are available, though, it couldn't hurt to take a look.

Chris Myers

Why he will play for the Patriots in 2012: The center position was a bit of a revolving door in New England this past year, and Myers has emerged to become one of the better centers in the league. He is big, physical, and powerful, and has been one of the most consistent members of a line that boasted the best rushing attack in the NFL. He has youth and speed on his side, and I can see him developing an instant repoire with the other linemen on the Patriots. If this line was Light/Vollmer, Mankins, Meyers, Waters, and Solder, Tommy B would be able to assemble 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles back there before throwing the ball.

Why he won't play for the Patriots in 2012: Myers is very likely to be back with the Texans. The only reason I don't have him in the Out of My League category is that I'm not sure how much money he is going to want, and Houston already has a lot of money to promise to Williams (should they decide to keep him), Foster, and reworking Andre Johnson's contract. Myers is more of a system fit center, so he isn't going to be getting Nicks-like money, but I still think that Houston would be foolish to let him go.

Overall: It really all depends on whether or not the Patriots bring back Dan Koppen/re-sign Dan Connolly, and whether Myers becomes a free agent. I feel comfortable saying that Myers will remain in Houston and if the Pats look for a center, it will be elsewhere.

Evan Mathis

Why he will play for the Patriots in 2012: The Patriots may have a hole in the guard position should Waters decide to hang up the cleats. I don't want our only option other than Mankins to be the unproven Marcus Cannon, and Mathis is one of the more solid guards in the league. He seems to have come into his own as of late and excels in run-blocking. If he's available, he makes a lot of sense.

Why he won't play for the Patriots in 2012: Mathis has finally found his groove along the Philadelphia offensive line. He is coming off a phenomenal season and opened up more than his share of holes for LeSean McCoy. I'd be very surprised if the Eagles didn't bring him back.

Overall. I'd love to see Mathis playing guard should Waters retire and Marcus Cannon continues to develop - but this move really doesn't make much sense. Even if Philly doesn't keep him (which is unlikely), New England's money is better spent elsewhere.

MOM, DAD...THERE'S SOMEONE I WANT YOU TO MEET.

Again, I don't really know whether the Patriots are going to make any moves in free agency. But assuming they do, here is who I would most like to see them sign.

Ben Grubbs

Why he will play for the Patriots in 2012: Grubbs is an above average, extremely durable lineman who has been a key part of one of the better O-Lines in the league. He excels in run blocking and is extremely mobile for a big guy. At 27, he's younger than aging veteran Waters and would be able to step in very nicely should Waters choose to retire. He also isn't going to break the bank, which is a plus.

Why he won't play for the Patriots in 2012: If Waters decides to come back, New England won't really be in the market for a guard. Plus, with the still-developing Canon on the roster, Grubbs would likely impede his progress. If he's available, and there is in fact a need at guard, this move makes sense. The Patriots aren't likely to know any of this for sure until a little later on in free agency, though, and by that point Grubbs is likely to have been snatched up.

Overall: Once again, this is a wait and see approach. If the Patriots keep their line in tact, which they very well may do, then there is no reason to sign a player like Grubbs. This is one of the positions that the team can address a little later on in the year, and I don't think that Grubbs will still be a free agent at that time.

Scott Wells

Why he will play for the Patriots in 2012: Wells is another system center coming off a very solid season in Green Bay. He is a highly intelligent, lunchpail player that could be the anchor to the line for several more years. With several bigger names becoming free agents for Green Bay, there might not be a big enough contract to entice Wells to stay. If he hits the market, he would be a phenomenal pickup.

Why he won't play for the Patriots in 2012: Of all the linemen that will be available, I like Wells the best. He plays the position we have a need in, he's a hard worker, and he's a seasoned veteran who can step in right away and start contributing. However, he's a bit undersized for a center, and so he might get overlooked. I also imagine the Packers would like to have him back, as he fits Green Bay's scheme very well and might be best served blocking for a mobile quarterback. He's also asking for around $7 million per year, which is a bit steep.

Overall: While I still say the Patriots will be drafting a center this year rather than acquiring one via free agency, Wells is the one I want. It makes sense, he'd be a good fit, he may be willing to take a backloaded contract, and he would be more than just a stopgap fill-in. If he's a free agent, and the Pats do in fact look places other than the draft for a lineman, I'd expect him to be a Patriot.

IF NEITHER OF US ARE MARRIED BY THE TIME WE'RE 40...

These are the linemen most likely to come to the team, to be honest, either for insurance or to hopefully surprise the coaches into earning a starting position.


Deuce Lutui
Mackenzy Bernadeau
Nate Livings
Mike McGlynn
Bobbie Williams
John Greco
Steve Vallos
Derrick Dockery
Montrae Holland
Russ Hochstein
Manuel Ramirez
Leonard Davis
Mike Brisiel
Samson Satele
Stacy Andrews
Mike Gibson
Pat McQuistan
Chilo Rachal
Jacob Bell
Tony Wragge
Jeremy Zuttah
Jake Scott
Will Montgomery
Todd McClure
Brett Romberg
Matt Birk
Andre Gurode
Geoff Hangartner -
Don Muhlbach
Ryan Pontbriand
Mike Pollak
Jeff Saturday
Casey Wiegmann
Nick Hardwick
Scott Mruczkowski
Ken Amato

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