The emergence of Marcus Cannon has been one of the surprising success stories of the New England Patriots’ 2016 season. After two sub-par years under offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, Cannon has re-gained his form under Dante Scarnecchia – the man under whose watch the Patriots selected Cannon in the fifth round of the 2011 draft – and is currently playing his best football to date.
The 28-year old, who has started each of New England’s games this year at right tackle, has arguably been the team’s most consistent offensive lineman. Yesterday, the Patriots awarded him with a five-year, $35 million contract extension.
Not only does the deal make Cannon the fourth-highest paid player in the NFL at his position, it also solidifies the Patriots’ right tackle spot for the foreseeable future. However, this also means that the right tackle of the last seven years seems to not be a part of this future: Cannon’s contract extension likely means that the end of Sebastian Vollmer’s career in Foxboro is nigh.
The 32-year old, who will not play this year after a multitude of injuries forced the Patriots to place and ultimately keep him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, is the team’s longest-tenured offensive lineman. He arrived in Foxboro as a second-round draft pick out of Houston in 2009 and has played 98 games for the Patriots – among them New England’s Super Bowl XLIX victory. Vollmer played the majority of those games at right tackle, the position the team has now all but officially handed over to Cannon.
Cannon is used to filling in for Vollmer (and starting left tackle Nate Solder, for that matter). After all, that is how he had gotten his starting role in the first place. Had Vollmer not been injured to start the season, he might very well have remained the Patriots’ starting right tackle. But injured he was and Cannon first stepped in and then up to give New England’s front office enough confidence to make him Vollmer’s heir apparent.
Vollmer, on the other hand, faces an uncertain future. The one-time All Pro-selection (second team, 2010) is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency after the 2016 season. Nearing age 33, and coming off multiple injuries with more than a year removed from his last on-field action, Vollmer will not be very high on New England’s or any other team’s list of priority free agents.
While the Patriots could bring him back on a cheap one-year contract, it seems more realistic to see the team continue to put its focus on younger depth options like Cameron Fleming. Consequently, Vollmer’s tenure in Foxboro would be over after seven years, 89 starts and one world championship. And given his rash of injuries, seeing him call it a career would also not be surprising.
Whatever the future holds for Vollmer – possibly a broadcasting gig in Germany? – one thing is certain: the 32-year old has been a key member of the Patriots’ offense the last seven years and one of the best right tackles in football. He has set the bar high for Cannon, his successor at New England’s starting right tackle spot.