Arjuna Ramgopal

Patriots Changing Of Guards

Created on Apr. 22, 2013 1:27 PM EST

There are always some surprising cuts to any NFL roster, and the Patriots are no exception. This offseason, the Patriots could look to make some changes at offensive guard.

At first glance it appears that the Patriots are set with Logan Mankins, arguably one of the best guards in the NFL, and Dan Connolly locked into place for the long-term.

But a mix of age, Mankins being 31 and Connolly being 30, along with injuries and high cap hits could make the duo expendable. According to SpotRAC, Mankins and Connolly will have a cap hit of $10 million and $3.3 million in 2013. 

Two guards over 30 costing $13.3 million is a lot, especially considering both of them have had injury concerns the last few seasons. Mankins played on a torn ACL for the entire 2011 season and missed six games last season due to ankle, calf, and hip injuries. 

Connolly has not been able to start an entire season for the Patriots, suffering a concussion in 2010 and suffering from back and groin injuries the last two seasons. According to ProFootballFocus, a website that grades every position, Connolly graded out as the Patriots worst offensive lineman last season. 

With Mankins being the second highest paid interior offensive lineman in the league, his recent injury run is a concern for the team. Mankins also hasn’t been the same impact guard since signing his contract extension in 2011. While he’s still good, Mankins doesn’t play with the same toughness and nastiness he played with when he was younger. The Patriots might feel he’s not worth $10 million a year anymore.

Connolly has proven to be able to play any of the three interior positions, starting at both guard spots in 2010, center in 2011, and right guard in 2012. It was clear by season’s end, however, that he was not a hundred percent and had trouble opening up lanes for running back Stevan Ridley in the AFC Championship game. 

The Patriots did draft Marcus Cannon in 2011, and it has long been speculated the Patriots will try and move him to guard. The Patriots may also turn to the draft to get younger at the position. 

Dante Scarnecchia is regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the league so perhaps the organization believes he can keep up the high level of the offensive line with younger, less proven talent. When Mankins and Connolly missed time, both Donald Thomas (now with the Colts) and Nick McDonald seamlessly filled due to Scarnecchia’s top notch coaching. Both Thomas and McDonald were castoffs and practice squad players before their time with New England. 

The Patriots have always been known as an unsentimental bunch, and a possible release of either Connolly or Mankins should come as no surprise. They will be reluctant to cut Mankins, but they may try to renegotiate his contract to bring his cap charge down. Connolly could end up being a final roster casualty, especially if Cannon or a rookie looks like a good fit at guard. 

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