The New England Patriots have had depth at a handful positions that make them the envy of the league: quarterback, until they moved both Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo; running back, with Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, James White, and Mike Gillislee; wide receiver, until Julian Edelman suffered a torn ACL; and offensive tackle.
Offensive tackle flies under the radar because the talent at the top isn’t considered the best in the NFL, with Nate Solder playing poorly in pass protection and Marcus Cannon not at his 2016 All Pro level, but there is no team with better depth.
LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming both have starting experience and they’re scheduled to become some of the top free agent tackles in an otherwise extremely weak market. That’s not to say that either are really good, but that offensive line play is low around the league and they’re simply better than what a lot of teams have to offer.
And with Waddle playing as the swing tackle and seeing time on the field against the Los Angeles Chargers, Fleming has been the #4 tackle and a gameday inactive. Fleming has actually played fairly well in his spot starts over the years at both left and right tackle, so it should be no surprise that other teams calls the Patriots about the availability of Fleming, according to the Herald’s Jeff Howe.
But what is notable is that Howe also reports that the Patriots made calls of their own about Fleming.
The Patriots made and received calls on Cameron Fleming today, per source. Ultimately nothing appeared to materialize.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) October 31, 2017
Nothing happened, of course, but this shows that the Patriots are happy with how Waddle is playing as the swing tackle, that Marcus Cannon’s ankle injury that forced him from the Chargers game isn’t considered serious or a long term concern, and that Fleming should have some suitors over the 2018 offseason.
If Fleming were to move, then Cole Croston would be the #4 tackle (behind the starters and Waddle) in addition to being the #4 guard and #3 center (behind the starters and Ted Karras). That promotion will have to wait until 2018.
The Patriots are prepared for some changes at the tackle position in 2018, with Solder, Waddle, and Fleming all free agents and 2017 third round tackle Tony Garcia expected to return from his non-football injury. Hopefully all of these changes won’t have a negative effect on the offense moving forward.