FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Thoughts on the New England Patriots agreeing to a two-year extension with reserve offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, which could be worth up to as much as $9 million, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
After strong 2013, play has dipped. Cannon filled in admirably in 2013 at right tackle when Sebastian Vollmer sustained a season-ending leg injury in late October, and had also been worked at left tackle at times in practices, which reflects the coaching staff's view of his athleticism. Entering this season, the thought from here was that Cannon was a starting-caliber player who would cash in as an unrestricted free agent in 2015 with another team that could offer him a starting job. But Cannon, from this viewpoint, has dipped a bit this season (e.g. second-quarter review of Packers game). That makes the timing of the extension, based on the present snapshot, a bit of a surprise.
Solder's fifth-year option bears watching. The initial thought I had when first learning of Cannon's extension was that it provides the team flexibility and a layer of insurance as it relates to starting left tackle Nate Solder's future with the club. The club has already declared its intentions to pick up Solder's fifth-year option in 2015, which will significantly raise his base salary (from $769,806 to $7.438 million), but they still have an out before next year if they change their minds. Another factor that could be on the team's mind is that Solder is represented by David Dunn, and the last time the Patriots negotiated with him, it was with Wes Welker and there were fireworks. So Cannon's extension, through 2016, provides a layer of insurance should Solder not be here past next season.
Scarnecchia's take on Cannon. Former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia loved Cannon. In June of 2013, Scarnecchia explained to me the team's approach of working Cannon at guard in offseason camps and said, "Love his physicality. Love his passion for the game. He’s a smart kid, a great kid to coach, he’s driven to be very good. I think he’s a really good tackle. [What we’re doing in OTAs with him at guard] is trying to get this guy to make himself as valuable a player as we can, and valuable for us. We have five starters and if we lose a guy we have to have a guy that is capable of getting in there and doing a great job. So we want to train him at guard, and we’re going to give him more tackle work as we go forward in this minicamp. I like what he’s doing. I like how he’s doing it. Every day is a growth day for him. He’s a special kid. He’s a starting quality player. I love the kid. I think he’s a good player.”
Cannon is a tackle, not a guard. While the Patriots have tried Cannon at guard, starting him there for the first three games of the 2014 season before benching him, it's clear his best fit is at tackle. He's better at the end of the line.
Detailing the offensive tackle depth chart. The contract status of Patriots tackles breaks down this way -- Solder (2015), Vollmer (2016), Cannon (2016) and rookie Cameron Fleming (2017). Where the Patriots might see the most value is Cannon's athleticism to possibly play left tackle. Fleming is more suited to the right side and/or as a big blocking tight end-type at the end of the line; he's more of a mauler. Cannon fits a different profile -- more athletic and with good feet for his size (6-foot-5, 335 pounds). From an overall standpoint, when it comes to positional value on a roster, offensive tackle rates highly.
Always look deeper into the contract terms. It's always hard to analyze a re-signing like this without seeing the specifics of the contract. We're reminded of center/guard Ryan Wendell from earlier this year, as initial reports pegged his deal to be a bit richer than it actually was. The two-year, $9 million terms for Cannon seem generous, and the educated guess from here is that it likely would only reach those levels if Cannon reached every possible incentive. So we'll be keeping our eyes out for the specifics, which will help better analyze the pact.