One day after signing Calvin Anderson to a two-year contract, the New England Patriots again tapped into the offensive tackle market. Their latest pickup is veteran Riley Reiff, a former first-round draft pick who has more than 10,000 career snaps on his résumé.
Reiff will join the competition for a starting job along the Patriots’ offensive line, so let’s take a closer look at him — his background, his projected role, and more.
Name: Riley Reiff
Position: Offensive tackle
Opening day age: 34
Size: 6-foot-6, 313 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)
Coming off a four-year college career under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Reiff entered the 2012 NFL Draft as one of the highest-rated offensive tackle prospects. In fact, he became the second player at the position to come off the board: the Detroit Lions picked him 23rd overall in the first round. While he spent his rookie season as a tackle eligible and part-time starter, he really broke out in Year 2 and never looked back. Over the next four seasons, he started 62 games for the Lions and proved himself a reliable presence at left and right tackle.
Nonetheless, he left the team in 2017 to sign a five-year, $58.8 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Reiff continued to play some solid football with his new team, starting all 62 of the games that he appeared in at the left tackle spot. Nonetheless, the team captain was released in 2021 — paving the way for him to join the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears the next two seasons. Despite no longer being the same player he was earlier in his career, Reiff still added 22 more starts to his résumé during that two-year span.
What is his projected role in New England? Reiff has played on both the left and the right side in his career, and New England might see him as a swing option. However, it appears more likely that the team will commit to him on one of the two sides and have him compete for a starting role there. If he is inserted into the lineup as a left tackle, incumbent starter Trent Brown might be moved to the right side where he spent the 2021 season; if Reiff is used as a right tackle, he will likely compete with the likes of Conor McDermott, Calvin Anderson, Andrew Stueber and a potential draft pick. Either way, Reiff starting at either left or right tackle in 2023 is an entirely possible scenario.
Does he have positional versatility? Reiff has versatility, to a degree. Of his 9,606 career snaps on the offensive side of the ball, 7,247 have come at left tackle (75.4%) and 2,133 on the right side (22.2%). He also has seen snaps in an in-line tight end role — effectively serving as an extra blocker — and even in the backfield when he was still younger. When it comes to his time in New England, though, he might have a clearly-defined role as either a left or right tackle. For what it is worth, he played right tackle for both the Bengals and Bears the last two seasons.
What is his special teams value? As is the case with virtually ever other offensive lineman in the NFL, Reiff’s kicking game value is limited to the protection teams. He will take the field for field goal and extra point tries, lining up as either a tackle or end. Filling a role like this, he has played 664 special teams snaps over the course of his career.
What does it mean for New England’s salary cap? The final details of the contract are not known just yet, but it has been reported as a one-year deal at $5 million. That number has to be taken with a grain of salt, though: it is entirely possible that the actual base value of the contract is a lot lower — maybe similar to the $3 million he received from Chicago last offseason — and that the initial report includes incentives that will not factor into his cap hit for the 2023 season. Either way, don’t expect Reiff to take up too big a chunk of New England’s salary cap space.
What does it mean for New England’s draft outlook? If anything, signing Reiff is additional proof that the Patriots are thinking about adding an offensive tackle in the draft. Neither he nor the other players on the roster appear to be viable long-term starting solutions, but adding him to the mix gives them some flexibility and a potential stop-gap starter for 2023. The plan, however, will likely be to add some young blood possibly as early as the first three rounds. One also has to wonder how much the 34-year-old still has left in the tank.
One-sentence verdict: Even though the hope is not to have to rely on Reiff in 2023, his presence at the very least should raise the floor at the offensive tackle position.
Instant grade: C+
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