News broke last night, courtesy of ESPN's Adam Schefter (the new deal) and the Boston Globe's Ben Volin (the deal details), of the New England Patriots extension of tackle Marcus Cannon. The new deal is for two years, with a maximum of $9 million, with $3.2 million guaranteed. Cannon was set to be a free agent at the end of the season.
The extension means that the Patriots have four tackles under contract through 2015, when Nate Solder will become a free agent. This will provide a degree of consistency that is so important for a cohesive unit.
Cannon's average of $4.5 million is high for a back-up tackle, one who fell to fourth on the depth chart behind rookie Cameron Fleming. But with Nate Solder on the payroll for $7.44 million next season, and with Sebastian Vollmer's cap hit at $4.96 million, it's clear that they believe Cannon is a starting quality tackle.
(edit: Miguel from Patscap gave a heads up- if Vollmer hits his incentives, his cap hit averages roughly $8.05 million; so Cannon is clearly a third tackle.)
The Patriots view Cannon's versatility as a guard, tackle, and sixth man as something worth having on the roster, even though he's clearly been struggling in all three capacities this season. With Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly in the midst of fairly nondescript seasons at guard, the Patriots have addressed the tackle position and will be able to focus their entire off-seasons on improving their offensive interior.
Cannon joins special teamer Matthew Slater as the Patriots receiving mid-season contracts this year.