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What does bringing back OT LaAdrian Waddle mean for replacing Nate Solder?

Ryan Hannable
March 23, 2018 - 10:03 am

On Thursday, it was reported the Patriots have re-signed offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle to a one-year deal.

Given the tackles available on the open market, this was a big deal considering he was arguably the best tackle still left and he visited the Cowboys earlier in the week.

Many are assuming this means Waddle will be Nate Solder's replacement at left tackle, but that isn't necessarily a lock.

First off, the 26-year-old doesn't have as much experience at left tackle as people think. During his time in New England, he has primarily been a right tackle.

Aside from his first snaps in 2015, he's been a right tackle. He got the opportunity to get extensive playing time this past season filling in for Marcus Cannon at right tackle and made the most of it. Waddle did a tremendous job going up against some of the best edge rushers in game like Joey Bosa, Von Miller, and Khalil Mack.

Although Cameron Fleming started at right tackle in the Super Bowl, it's worth noting Waddle started against the Titans in the divisional round, but re-injured his ankle and therefore Fleming jumped him on the depth chart. This was an injury situation, not performance-based.

Waddle isn't the only left tackle option on the roster, either.

There's 2017 third-round pick Tony Garcia, who was just cleared to play this week after missing all of last season reportedly because of blood clots in his lungs and losing 40 pounds. Then, there's undrafted rookie Cole Croston from 2017, who the Patriots kept on the active roster all of last year so they wouldn't lose him, but he doesn't have that much experience at left tackle. Another undrafted rookie from last year, Andrew Jelks, is also in the mix, although he hasn't played in a game since November of 2014. Last but not least there is Matt Tobin, who signed with the Patriots as a free agent last week, but it is worth noting he couldn't start for the Seahawks last season.

It's hard to depend on any of these players, which makes it increasingly likely the Patriots use one of their top picks on a left tackle.

Some of the options include UCLA’s Kolton Miller, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Texas’ Connor Williams.

Having Waddle back takes some of the pressure off a potential rookie.

If the rookie isn't ready to start Week 1, the Patriots could go with Waddle until the rookie is in a position to start, even if that takes until the middle of the season. With Waddle only signing a one-year deal, it would be the perfect transition to this rookie being the offensive tackle for the next several years. (Garcia could be this player, but it's hard to know how he will respond after missing the entire 2017 season, and a team can never have enough good left tackles).

Bottom line, getting Waddle back in the mix was an extremely important move for the Patriots, but it does not mean he's the answer to replacing Solder. This seems likely to come via the draft.