With the NFL’s free agency compensation window closing later today, players plugged from the open market will no longer qualify for the compensatory draft picks formula and therefore not cost a team potential capital for 2020. This means that clubs will probably be pretty active this week when it comes to bringing in free agents — and the New England Patriots have apparently already started.
According to reports from earlier today, the Patriots will sign veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to a one-year contract worth a maximum of $6.5 million later this week. Let’s find out what the move means for the team, once it becomes official.
The Patriots feel the need to add additional depth at offensive tackle
After losing Trent Brown to the Oakland Raiders just minutes into March’s legal tampering period, the Patriots were left with uncertainty at left tackle: presumed future starter Isaiah Wynn, after all, is coming off a season lost to a torn Achilles tendon. And while the Patriots added Yodny Cajuste in the third round of the draft, bringing Veldheer on board sends a clear message: the team feels it needs to add more depth at the position amidst the question marks that are Wynn and Cajuste at this point in time.
Isaiah Wynn’s starting spot is not etched in stone
The player most impacted by the Patriots signing Veldheer is undoubtably the aforementioned Isaiah Wynn. While the Georgia product still has a good chance of earning the starting left tackle spot given his upside and status as a first-round draft choice just one year ago, the addition of Veldheer puts more pressure on the second-year man: he has to show that he is physically and mentally ready to fill the shoes of Trent Brown over the next few weeks.
Veldheer brings experience and positional versatility to New England…
Veldheer entered the NFL as a third-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2010 and has seen plenty of action since then — all over the offensive line. The veteran lineman appeared in a combined 121 regular season and playoff games over his nine seasons in the league. And while he primarily lined up at left tackle, he was also used at the right side of the line and even at center early on in his career. New England will certainly appreciate this level of versatility, which would allow the team to use him as a swing-tackle backup in case he doesn’t earn a starting role.
…but also comes with questions about his durability
Early in his career, Veldheer displayed some excellent staying power: he appeared in all sixteen games in five of his first six seasons in the NFL. Since 2016, however, injuries have started to slow the 6-foot-8, 320-pound blocker down. His 2016 campaign ended after only eight games due to a tricep injury. He was again placed on injured reserve one year later, this time after thirteen games because of an ankle issue. In 2018, finally, he missed three of the Denver Broncos’ games after he hurt his knee. In short: Veldheer didn’t have a lot of injury luck lately.
Signing Veldheer puts the Patriots above the offseason roster limit
The Patriots currently have 90 players on their roster, the maximum allowed by the NFL during the offseason. Adding Veldheer to the team will therefore force the team to make a corresponding move. The most likely candidates to get released in order to create room for the 31-year-old are members of the team’s undrafted rookie class or low-level free agency signings such as offensive tackle Cedrick Lang or defensive lineman Nick Thurman.