FOXBORO - If the pundits overestimated the value of offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer on the free-agency market, which seems to be the case, that means the Patriots were big winners by waiting and re-signing their starting right tackle at their leisure.
According to published reports, the Patriots and Vollmer, the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder from Houston via Düsseldorf, Germany, reached an agreement early Sunday. Terms were not announced, but it is reportedly a four-year deal.
Vollmer, 28, was seen as a potential early departure on the market because of his size and the perception that teams would project him as a potential left tackle to protect a right-handed quarterback. But he has struggled with back problems, playing only seven games in the regular season and postseason in 2011, as well as 15 games in 2012. The second-round selection in 2009 has started 44 of 51 regular-season games.
The back trouble, as well as the lengthy delay in resolution of the new contract for Jake Long with the St. Louis Rams, may have cooled the market for Vollmer. He also underwent knee surgery in Feb., but is expected to be fully recovered in time for training camp.
Vollmer's return completes the puzzle for the Patriots' offensive line, which will return all five starters (Vollmer, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell). That sort of continuity from season to season is usually a positive.
Also, it could mean a shift to guard for the primary backup tackle, Marcus Cannon. The Patriots signed former Atlanta left tackle Will Svitek (who missed the 2012 season with an upper body injury) as a backup and possible hedge against Vollmer's departure, so Cannon might be more of a natural at an inside position.