With free agency beginning March 11 and the draft coming May 8-10, one thing NFL teams generally do at this time is marry the two to better assess the best approach to filling potential needs.
For example, if a team knows it's a deep draft for top-quality offensive tackles (2014 is such), it might be less inclined to be aggressive at that position in free agency.
With this in mind, we have looked at each position over the last week-plus through a similar lens. The series concludes with our final position.
Next on the list: Offensive tackle
Draft: One of the strongest positions in the entire draft, the top three prospects (Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan) are viewed by some analysts as superior to each of last year's top three prospects who went No. 1, 2 and 4 (Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson). Analysts believe teams can get a quality offensive tackle into the middle rounds. This speaks to the overall strength of the draft, both in terms of top-end quality and depth.
Free agency: There are some notable offensive tackles set to hit the market, including Brandon Albert (Chiefs), Austin Howard (Rams), Eugene Monroe (Ravens), Michael Oher (Ravens), Rodger Saffold (Rams) and Jared Veldheer (Raiders). Between the draft and free agency, this looks like a good year for teams seeking improvement along the offensive line, such as Atlanta and Miami.
Patriots perspective: The recovery of starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (broken leg) is the one wrinkle in what is otherwise a strong outlook for the team with Nate Solder (left tackle), Vollmer and Marcus Cannon (right tackle) atop the depth chart. Solder is signed through 2015, Vollmer through 2016 and Cannon through 2014. If the Patriots add a player at this position, the projection is either a developmental prospect from the strong draft class, or a lower-level free agent similar to last year (e.g. Will Svitek, who is a free agent).