Next up in our New England Patriots free agent profile series: offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle.
Midway through the 2017 season, New England Patriots offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle seemed primed for a significant pay raise as he prepared to enter free agency over the offseason.
Waddle was filling in admirably at right tackle for injured starter Marcus Cannon as the Patriots saw little drop off from their offensive line. Then the injury bug bit Waddle hard, and the backup offensive tackle played just 24 total offensive snaps over the final five weeks of the regular season as Cameron Fleming subbed in at right tackle. Waddle started the Patriots’ divisional-round win over the Tennessee Titans, suffered another injury and didn’t take the field on offense in New England’s AFC Championship Game win or Super Bowl LII loss.
If Waddle had stayed healthy all season, it’s possible he would have received the opportunity, from some team, to start in 2018. But after injuries limited him to just 334 regular season offensive snaps, there might not be enough film on the offensive lineman — or trust — to receive that chance.
Let’s take a quick look at his 2017 season.
2017 stats: 0 sacks allowed, seven QB hits, 10 hurries
Highlight of the season: The Patriots won all five games Waddle started in 2017.
Chances of coming back: High. Fleming also is a free agent, and it seems likely the Patriots will bring back Fleming and/or Waddle this offseason, especially with starting left tackle Nate Solder’s status up in the air as a free agent.
Offensive tackle depth: Marcus Cannon, Antonio Garcia, Cole Croston, Andrew Jelks
Contingency plan: There’s a lot going on at offensive tackle for the Patriots this offseason. The Patriots’ starting left tackle and top two reserves all are free agents. If the Patriots can’t re-sign Solder, then it seems unlikely they’d want to go into 2018 with Waddle or Fleming as a starter, so the Patriots either would need to look to free agency or the draft for a starter. It’s possible they consider Garcia, a 2017 third-round pick, a potential starter of the future, but he was down to 260 pounds after hitting the non-football illness list as a rookie.
If the Patriots sign Solder but can’t retain Waddle, then they still could re-sign Fleming. If they can’t or don’t re-sign either, then Garcia, Croston and Jelks would all compete for backup snaps. The Patriots also could look to free agency or the draft to grab more backup options.
The smart move, however, would be to re-sign Waddle and/or Fleming. The Patriots know what they have in both players, and neither should come with a high price tag. The Patriots have enough depth in Garcia, Croston and Jelks that if Waddle again struggles to stay healthy, they’ll have some insurance.