Before the start of free agency, the New England Patriots had three of their top four offensive tackles from the previous season scheduled to hit the open market. The team lost starting left tackle Nate Solder to the New York Giants on a four-year, $62 million contract before bringing back backup LaAdrian Waddle two days ago. Now, the Patriots are about to lose yet another tackle.
Source: the Cowboys are expected to sign free agent offensive tackle Cameron Fleming.
Fleming entered the 2017 season as the Patriots’ number four option at the tackle position behind Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon; he ended it by starting the Super Bowl at the right tackle spot. In between, the former fourth round draft pick saw a season-ending injury to Cannon as well as an injury to his replacement LaAdrian Waddle. As a result, Fleming was elevated to a starting role in week 13 – and he never looked back.
Overall, the 25-year old appeared in 15 games for the Patriots last year and played roughly 40% of the team’s offensive snaps (along with a 15% of special teams snaps as well). All in all, considering where he started the year on the depth chart, Fleming did a good job to fill in for Waddle and by extension Cannon. And despite giving up the second-most sacks on the team, he popped up on another team's free agency radar.
Fleming originally joined the Patriots as a fourth-round draft pick in 2014 and despite serving mostly as a depth option over the next four seasons still appeared in 56 games – 22 of which starts. New England therefore loses an experienced swing tackle option that might have had a chance to earn a starting role with Solder leaving to join New York. At least until the draft, this spot now appears to be LaAdrian Waddle's to lose.
With Fleming about to leave the Patriots, New England will have another player counting in the compensatory draft picks formula.