Earlier today, the New England Patriots made a move to add to one of their currently most vulnerable positions: The team re-signed LaAdrian Waddle on a one-year contract to bolster its depth at offensive tackle. By bringing the 26-year old back into the fold the Patriots now have another body available when it comes to the task of replacing former starting left tackle Nate Solder, who left via free agency.
Joining a group of what is now six offensive tackles, Waddle might currently be the favorite to win the starting spot formerly occupied by Solder:
Filling the left tackle spot has to be a priority for the Patriots, especially considering that the team's starting quarterback – one that has excellent feel and pocket movement but lacks the lower body quickness to evade rushers on a regular level – will turn 41 a month before opening day. How the team will do it depends on a lot of factors but performance will be the deciding factor.
It is therefore possible, if unlikely, that New England opts to move starting right tackle Marcus Cannon to the left side: The 29-year old has proven to be a very solid player at his position and brings the most experience to the table. However, moving Cannon would weaken two spots along the line so it appears more likely that one of the other five players (or another one not yet on the roster) steps into Solder's shoes.
As things stand right now, Waddle might therefore be the guy. He looked good when on the field last season and did not allow a sack in five starts at right tackle. While the 26-year old has played the majority of his professional career on the right side, he played on the left throughout his college career at Texas Tech (mostly at tackle but at guard as well). Waddle, on a one-year deal, appears to be a solid stop-gap until another option gets ready.
This other option could either be a draft pick or one of the young tackles on the roster: Antonio Garcia, due to his draft pedigree and athletic upside, is the player to watch of the group. He would likely be the favorite to start if he had not missed his entire rookie campaign due to blood clots in his lungs. While he has recently been cleared to play again, the former third round selection needs to get back to regain weight and return to full strength and stamina before stepping onto the field.
If Garcia can do this over the next few months, it would not be a surprise to see him earn the starting spot at left tackle. Until then, however, Waddle will likely be the guy with Tobin, Croston and Jelks (who has not played in a game over the last three years due to injury) fighting for what appears to be at best one backup spot.