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Analysis: Vollmer No. 2 'impact' free agent!?

Posted Mar 5, 2013

NFL.com surprisingly ranks Patriots right tackle among the elite free agents set to hit the open market.

Following Monday’s deadline for NFL teams to use their franchise and transition tags, NFL.com put together a list of the top 85 (Why not 75 or 100? I have no idea!) free agents set to hit the market on March 12.

The list obviously includes a number of Patriots, with three soon-to-be-free New England players ranking in the top 15. That’s not all that surprising given the Patriots “Big Three” free agent class that includes former All-Pro wide receiver Wes Welker, former second-team All-Pro right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and former first-round cornerback Aqib Talib.

What is surprising, though, is where NFL.com slots New England’s free agents on the list, and which of the “Big Three” is considered the top “impact” starter.

While super-speedy Pittsburgh wide receiver Mike Wallace takes the No. 1 overall spot, Vollmer shockingly comes in at No. 2 overall spot among would-be free agents?

Let that digest for a minute.

NFL.com writes of Vollmer: “Vollmer is a young, quality starter who is more important to the Patriots' future than Wes Welker. This is where some of Tom Brady's cap savings might go.”

Yes, a right tackle is considered the No. 2 impact starter set to be available in free agency according to NFL.com. A right tackle who missed 10 games two years ago due to injury for an offense that has looked shockingly similar with or without Vollmer in the lineup the last two seasons.

I don’t get it. Heck, I’d rank Vollmer third among New England’s top three free agents in terms of being an impact starter. Welker and Talib play key roles at marquee spots on their respective sides of the ball.

How does Vollmer land 10 spots ahead of All-Pro left tackle Jake Long – who I’m admittedly not a big fan of and think is way overrated in his own right – on the list?

How does Vollmer rank five spots ahead of the most productive receiver in the game dating back to 2007, and Tom Brady’s top target on what is consistently one of the league’s top offensive attacks?

How does Vollmer rank 13 spots ahead of a No. 1 corner – regardless of how good a No. 1 corner you believe Talib is, he is a No. 1 corner in the league – who was given credit for solidifying a secondary when added to New England’s back end late in the season?

Can someone, anyone, answer these questions for me? Or am I simply overanalyzing a list meant to create discussion or controversy? Let me know with a comment below!

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