For the second consecutive season, a New England Patriots blindside protector earned the biggest contract ever given to an offensive tackle. Trent Brown spent one season in New England, starting all 19 games while protecting quarterback Tom Brady’s blind side. With Brown now in Oakland, the Patriots need to find a replacement to protect their soon-to-be 42-year old quarterback. Fortunately, the Patriots have quite a few options to replace their departed starter.
The Internal Option – Isaiah Wynn
This is the obvious one. New England knew they needed young blood at offensive tackle when they selected Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Wynn, a former Georgia Bulldog, spent time at guard and tackle during his collegiate tenure. However, the Patriots clearly drafted Wynn with the intention of molding him into the left tackle of the future.
Wynn reportedly looked good in training camp, but the first-round pick never had a chance to prove himself on the field. Wynn suffered an Achilles injury in the preseason, landing on the injured reserve and ending his season before it began. In a way, this injury opened the door for Brown in the first place, as the two players were competing for the same position. Wynn should be healthy for the start of training camp, and Bill Belichick’s offensive line evaluation skills are second to none. Look for Wynn to be the starting left tackle in 2019 and to fill in admirably for Brown.
Possible Free Agent Signings
Wynn will be the left tackle in a perfect world, but New England needs to have a backup plan in case Wynn doesn’t work out. After all, the offensive lineman has yet to play an NFL snap and nobody knows how he’ll perform against NFL competition. On top of that, Wynn is relatively undersized for an offensive tackle and could end up at guard. Just like with any prospect, there is a chance Wynn can’t handle the job.
Finding a good insurance policy isn’t easy, but there are a few players who fit New England’s needs. Free agent tackle LaAdrian Waddle spent the past four seasons with New England, and the Patriots clearly like what he brings to the table. Serving primarily as depth, Waddle has started seven games for New England over the past two seasons. While he’s clearly not good enough to be a 16-game starter, he’s a good depth piece who can easily step in for a couple games at a time.
If the Patriots are looking for cost-effective free agents, then they should look at Jermey Parnell of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cameron Fleming of the Dallas Cowboys. Parnell is coming off a terrible season with Jacksonville but overall has a solid career. A one-year deal to re-establish his value would make sense for both sides. Fleming initially arrived in the NFL as New England’s fourth-round pick in 2014 and spent parts of four seasons with the Patriots. Much like Waddle, Fleming is a good backup to have who can adequately fill in for a game or two at a time.
Looking to the Draft
The Patriots have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, and it’s safe to assume they’ll use one of those selections to improve their offensive tackle depth. While they probably won’t use their first-round pick on a tackle, any of the other five picks are fair game.
Should New England choose to select an offensive tackle in the second round, Dalton Risner will probably be the best player left on the board. While he lacks polish against speedier edge rushers, Risner has starting potential with the right coaching. Dante Scharnecchia has worked miracles with players far worse than Risner, and the Kansas State product has the size and strength to make it in the NFL. Of course, New England could also hope that a first-round talent like Jonah Williams or Cody Ford falls into their lap.
There are enough good tackles in this draft that the Patriots should be able to select a solid player in the third round. Kaleb McGary has a solid chance to make it on the left side in the NFL, while David Edwards is an interesting bounce-back candidate who could be a steal with the right coaching staff.
Losing Trent Brown makes the Patriots worse in the short run, but New England has the resources to overcome his departure. Isaiah Wynn is the heir apparent, while there are several serviceable depth options still available in free agency. Additionally, New England boasts fantastic draft capital and can easily select a developmental prospect with one of their early picks.
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