Veterans Linked to Patriots as Emergency Replacement for Marcus Cannon

Getty LaAdrian Waddle

The New England Patriots might be in scramble mode, and their recovery could lead them to bring back a familiar face. On Monday, the team lost three players when Dan Vitale, Najee Toran, and perhaps most impacting, starting right tackle Marcus Cannon elected to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season because of safety concerns related to COVID-19.

The Patriots re-signed Will Hastings, an undrafted free-agent rookie out of Auburn to fill one of those slots, but there is now a gaping hole at right tackle and the team will almost certainly have to make a move to fill it, or at the very least, to add some depth.

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Marcus Cannon Makes it Official

Early on Monday, Cannon, who is a cancer-survivor was mulling a decision to opt-out of the upcoming season. His battle with the disease makes him high risk in the event he contracted COVID-19.

Understandably, he isn’t willing to take that risk. His decision to opt-out would seemingly put the Patriots in the immediate market for an offensive lineman who can play tackle.

The Free-Agent Options

The pickings are slim at this point, but CLNS’ Evan Lazar suggests former Patriots and two-time Super Bowl champion LaAdrian Waddle could be among a small group of potential replacements.

Waddle would make sense from a familiarity standpoint. The 29-year-old was out of football in 2019, but he spent part of the 2015 season and all 2016-18 with the Patriots. The coaching staff knows him well and because we’re looking at an abbreviated camp, the experience and chemistry might be attractive to the Patriots.

Some publications rank Demar Dotson, Cody Glenn, and Marshall Newhouse higher than Waddle on the available free-agents list, but that doesn’t mean any of those guys are a better fit.

One name Lazar didn’t mention is Jared Veldheer. The 33-year-old, 6’8″ veteran played only two games in 2019 for the Green Bay Packers, but is available on the free-agent market. I cannot say he is a better option than the guys mentioned, but when it comes to experience, few of the available guys have his resume.

Who Steps Up Without Cannon for Now?

Korey Cunningham would seemingly become the starter, unless Bill Belichick elects to do something like moving franchise-tagged guard Joe Thuney to right tackle. He has drawn raves for his pass blocking over the past few years, and it wouldn’t be an unheard-of transition for him to make.

Also, keep an eye out for the promising Yodny Cajuste. He missed all of 2019 with an injury, but the belief is that he has the talent to become a starting tackle in the NFL. However, I’m not sure if anyone in the Patriots organization was prepared for his time to come so soon.

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