Vollmer and playing-time incentives

It's too soon to know whether right tackle Sebastian Vollmer's will be available for Sunday night's game in Atlanta, but we know now that he's dealing with a foot injury that kept him off the practice field on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Patriots hope to return the massive tackle to the lineup as soon as possible, as he presents one of the best players on their offense and is a stabilizing force as both a run blocker and pass protector.

Thinking back to the four-year contract that Vollmer signed this offseason, a couple of details stand out as it relates to his injury and the potential impact it has on his playing-time status.

The first is a playing-time incentive to be paid out at the end of this league year: If Vollmer logs 90 percent of all the offensive snaps, he'll be paid $750,000.

He's also entitled to a roster bonus of $1 million (due on the third day of the 2014 league year) if he plays 80 percent of the snaps this season.

The Patriots likely included playing-time incentives in Vollmer's deal as a result of previous injury issues he's worked through (back and knee). These incentives are not uncommon around the league, as they provide a layer of protection for franchises in the event that a player suffers an injury or experiences a precipitous drop in performance.

The foot issue cost Vollmer exactly 50 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 3 (37 out of 74), meaning he has now played 193 of 230 possible offensive snaps this season, or 83.9 percent. That keeps him above the threshold to earn the 2014 roster bonus, but behind the pace needed to achieve the bonus to be paid out at the end of this year.

The Patriots need Vollmer back on the field for obvious reasons, and a quick recovery for Vollmer could pay off in a big way from a financial standpoint.