From a name recognition standpoint, offensive tackle Will Svitek was not a major free-agent signing for the Patriots. He could prove to be a valuable pick-up however, particularly if Sebastian Vollmer departs in free agency.
Svitek missed the 2012 season after suffering an upper body injury during training camp, so we have to go back to his 2011 game tape to study his strengths and limitations.
It was during the 2011 season that he took over for a struggling Sam Baker as the Falcons' left tackle, where he protected the blindside of quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons originally selected Baker in the first round of the 2008 draft and recently re-signed him to a lucrative contract extension after a bounce-back 2012 season. The fact that Atlanta felt comfortable enough to replace him with Svitek says something about Svitek's abilities.
But beyond what his games played and started suggests, we also looked at his film to see how he might fit for the Patriots.
Strengths. Svitek has very good size and length for the position, as he stands at 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds. He carries it well, with an athletic frame and the ability to bend in his stance. He has good initial quickness, the reactive athleticism to move laterally to mirror inside slant rushes, and he's adept at getting to the second level in the running game. He has nimble feet to adjust once he sets in his anchor, and executes double-team blocks well in the running game.
Limitations. Where Svitek appears to struggle most is against power rushers when he has to absorb bull rushes. He has just a sufficient base to plant his weight in the turf and not give ground. He has the feet and length to counter power rushers after their initial push, but closes the cushion too much between himself and the quarterback. That affects the integrity of the pocket and forces a quarterback to either step up or sprint out to his right.
Patriots projection. It's very early in the process, and we'll learn a lot more about Svitek when he puts the pads on in training camp. For now, he appears to have best value as a reserve left tackle behind Solder. The Patriots didn't have to take Solder out of a game last season, but based on the personnel available, Vollmer was likely the back-up plan if Solder went down. Adding Svitek gives the team some insurance that it will need especially if Vollmer departs.
While Svitek could also get some work at right tackle, he seems to lack the desired power for the position. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best in the business, and strength is something that can continue to be developed, keeping the door open to Svitek working on the right side. If Vollmer returns, the team is all set at right tackle, but if he leaves, the Patriots have a few options to replace him. Marcus Cannon or a draft prospect could be in play, and Svitek may compete as well, although we'd argue he's better served on the left side. Losing Vollmer would really thin the Patriots' depth at tackle, and would make Svitek an important, low-cost addition.