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NFL free agency 2023: What signing offensive tackle Riley Reiff means for the Patriots

New England is adding the veteran on a reported one-year deal.

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Chicago Bears v New England Patriots Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Three days into free agency week, the New England Patriots have made three moves addressing their offensive tackle position. The latest of which saw them pick up veteran Riley Reiff on a reported one-year, $5 million deal.

What exactly does adding the 35-year-old to the equation mean for the Patriots, though? Let’s take a closer look.

The Patriots keep building their depth at a position of need. All of New England’s offensive tackle moves this offseason are following the spaghetti principle: throwing something at the wall and seeing what sticks. The players in question are Conor McDermott (re-signed/2 years), Calvin Anderson (signed/2 years), Yodny Cajuste (tendered) and now Reiff (signed/1 year).

They are joined on the roster by veteran Trent Brown and sophomore Andrew Stueber. The hope is that two of McDermott, Anderson, Cajuste and Reiff will emerge as a starter and serviceable backup opposite Brown.

That said, the Patriots filling out the depth spots with no clear starter in place points in one direction: they will be targeting the position in the draft, possibly early. The top tackles available this year include Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones, Georgia’s Broderick Jones, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, and Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison.

Trent Brown might be on the move, again. The Patriots raised some eyebrows when they decided to flip offensive tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn for the 2022 season; Brown moved from the right to the left side with Wynn going in the opposite direction. The move did not work out as planned, with the latter in particular struggling.

As for Brown, he was solid at left tackle but still had arguably his worst of three total seasons with the Patriots. Now that the team has added two experienced left tackles in free agency — Reiff and Anderson — he might be on the move again, possibly going back to the right side he himself manned for most of his career.

Reiff adds plenty of experience to New England’s O-line... When you are 34 years old and still being signed to compete for a starting spot in the NFL, you probably have played a lot of quality football through your career. Reiff has done just that.

A first-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2012, he has 153 starts on his résumé — including 10 as a member of the Chicago Bears last year. If the Patriots indeed plan on adding a rookie to the equation, having a player of Reiff’s professionalism, leadership and experience around is not the worst thing in the world. That is especially true if he can also serve as a plug-and-play starter at a relatively limited cost.

...and plenty of pass-protection prowess. Despite his age and him only slowly getting into a rhythm with the Bears, Reiff has showed that he can still be a successful player. The numbers, according to Pro Football Focus, are a reflection of that. In 2022, he gave up 18 pressures on 293 pass-blocking reps for a rate of 6.1 percent.

For comparison, he was credited with a 5.0-percent rate the year before with the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2020, his fourth and final year with the Minnesota Vikings, that number stood at 2.7 percent.

The numbers are going down, but a) Reiff is not getting any younger, and b) the circumstances in Chicago and Cincinnati have to be considered. Blocking talent around him was an issue both in 2022 and 2021.

In addition, Reiff also is still a solid run blocker and as steady a technician as there is. Case in point: over that three-year span above, he was penalized just eight times; only six of those actually were enforced.

The addition will not impact the cap or compensatory formula too much. Speaking of the cost, we do not exactly know how much Reiff will impact the Patriots’ salary cap; the reported one-year, $5 million number does not tell the full story about his cap hit because we do not yet know the salary allocation as well as potential signing and roster bonuses as well as incentives.

That said, even if New England fully-guarantees the deal at the reported value, Reiff would still carry just the 12th-highest cap number on the team. The belief is, however, that it will actually be lower than that.

As a consequence, the signing should also not impact the compensatory draft picks formula for the 2024 offseason. At the moment, New England is projected to earn a fourth-rounder for losing wide receiver Jakobi Meyers to the Las Vegas Raiders on a three-year, $33 million contract.


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