The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 14, and with it, the advent of 2018's free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, concluding with a grouping of potentially important positions for New England: offensive linemen.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
Tackles: Nate Solder, LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming
OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS
Tackles: Breno Giacomini (Houston Texans), Eric Winston (Cincinnati Bengals)
Guards: Jahri Evans (Green Bay Packers), Josh Kline (Tennessee Titans), Matt Slauson (LA Chargers), Xavier Sua'Filo (Houston Texans)
Centers: Wesley Johnson (NY Jets), John Sullivan (LA Rams), Travis Swanson (Detroit Lions), Matt Paradis (Denver Broncos, restricted free agent)
Tackles: Solder, Giacomini, Waddle, Fleming
This year, Solder is the biggest name available at the most high-profile o-line position. As such, he'll likely receive considerable attention (and reportedly already is) from any number of teams, including New England. The Patriots might have an edge over those other teams because they were the team that drafted Solder and he's had success here, but his return is by no means assured.
If New England can't convince him to stay, the Patriots will be hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement. While it's conceivable that they could re-sign either of Solder's backups (Waddle or Fleming), the free agent market offers little this year in the way of quality tackles. Giacomini, an experienced veteran and a Bay State native, might be the best alternative.
At the interior positions of guard and center, the free-agent pickings are much lusher, but New England has invested heavily in terms of draft picks there in recent years and likely won't be looking to replace starting center David Andrews (a co-captain) or guards Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney.
Other than Solder and that left tackle spot, o-line would not appear at this point to be an urgent need for the Patriots to pursue in free agency this year.