Sidy Sow

OL Notes: Vikings, Bengals, Pats, Nijman

Garrett Bradbury suffered a back injury last season, and the Vikings center saw his absence extended after he aggravated the malady in a car accident. Bradbury missed the Vikings’ final five regular-season games but returned for the team’s wild-card loss. The Vikings circled back to the former first-round pick in March, re-signing him to a three-year, $15.75MM deal. That contract becomes a pay-as-you go accord after 2023, and Bradbury has run into familiar trouble. The Vikings ruled out the fifth-year center for their Thursday-night game in Philadelphia due to a back injury.

We felt positive about him, and he’s done everything and had no issues whatsoever through a pretty physical training camp for us to feel really good about it,” Kevin O’Connell said (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) of Bradbury’s back issue. “It’s just how this game goes sometimes, and he’s a tough guy, big part of the interior of our offensive line and we’ll hope to get him back as soon as we can.”

Austin Schlottmann, who returned last week after a broken leg ended his 2022 season, is set to start at center against the Eagles. Here is the latest from the O-line landscape:

  • The Bengals completed an unexpected transaction this week, releasing La’el Collins from the reserve/PUP list. The team had given Collins a three-year, $21MM deal to step in at right tackle, which he did for 15 games. But ACL and MCL tears ended his 2022 season in Week 16 and prevented him from starting this season on time. The Bengals have Jonah Williams at right tackle opposite big-ticket UFA addition Orlando Brown Jr., but Jackson Carman — who replaced Williams at LT in the playoffs last season — is not the top backup any longer. D’Ante Smith, a 2021 fourth-round pick, is positioned as Cincinnati’s swing tackle now, Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Carman has started two playoff games but lost three position battles in his three training camps. Viewed as a project coming out of East Carolina, Smith has played 56 career offensive snaps.
  • Reliability questions surrounded the Patriots‘ offensive line, and the team responded accordingly when setting its 53-man roster. Before Riley Reiff ended up on IR, the Patriots submitted an initial 53 with 11 O-linemen. No other team’s first 53 included that many, as Mike Reiss of observes. Only seven teams kept 10 blockers, though that is where New England’s contingent stands after the Reiff move. The Pats needed to use this depth early. Calvin Anderson, who came off the Pats’ reserve/non-football illness list late in the preseason, started at right tackle in Week 1. Guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu were out, moving fourth- and fifth-round rookies — Sidy Sow, Atonio Mafi — into the lineup. Onwenu and Strange have each logged two limited practices this week, though both Sow and left tackle Trent Brown suffered concussions in the opener, leaving their Week 2 statuses in doubt.
  • The Commanders, Packers and Vikings each restructured an O-line deal recently. Washington created $6MM in cap space by moving $7.5MM of Charles Leno‘s base salary into a signing bonus and adding three void years, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Green Bay topped that by adding four void years to Yosh Nijman‘s deal, creating $2.54MM in cap space, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. This proves interesting due to Nijman being on a second-round RFA tender; he is due to be a 2024 free agent. Minnesota added $9.99MM in space by restructuring Brian O’Neill‘s contract, per Yates.

Latest On Patriots’ Tackle Situation

Not re-signing Isaiah Wynn, the Patriots have some questions at their tackle posts. New England might boast some depth, should everyone stay healthy here, though the soundness of its strategy at this position can be debated.

Trent Brown is back in place as the Pats’ left tackle, but the ninth-year veteran struggled with fitness during minicamp. Weight clauses exist in Brown’s Patriots contract, just as they did when the team reacquired him from the Raiders and reworked his deal. Brown’s weight at various offseason points will trigger the bonuses. Given his minicamp form, it is worth wondering how many of those benchmarks the talented blocker will hit this year.

The team was connected to making a more concerted effort to upgrade at right tackle, but Riley Reiff is in place on a one-year, $5MM deal. The 34-year-old tackle signed for $4.15MM guaranteed and, as of now, is positioned to re-emerge as a Week 1 starter. The Bears stationed Reiff as a backup to open last season, but he closed the year as the 3-14 team’s right tackle starter. Reiff, however, took left tackle reps during the Patriots’ offseason program, per the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.

Reiff has extensive experience on both sides, having been drafted in the 2012 first round by the Lions to play left tackle. He worked as Detroit’s full-time left-sider for three seasons and Minnesota’s for four. The Bengals used Reiff as their starting right tackle for much of their 2021 AFC championship season, but an injury ended his run before the playoffs. Reiff has made 149 career starts. Although Reiff’s profile did not present the intrigue Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor or Kaleb McGary‘s did at free agency’s outset, the Patriots passed on a big-ticket signing or a high draft choice for this role.

Reiff seeing left tackle time could point to Brown’s roster spot being uncertain. When healthy, Brown has played well during his two New England stints. He played 17 games last season but missed eight in 2021, which followed an absence-riddled Raiders tenure. Brown’s cap number ($12.25MM) sits third on this year’s Pats roster. The team would save $8MM by releasing the 6-foot-8 cog, who is going into his age-30 season.

Brown reporting to training camp in shape and staying healthy would be the best O-line outcome for the Patriots, but Reiff’s experience does provide some insurance. That said, questions also surround Reiff given his age. Reiff spent time with the backups during minicamp and has not started and finished a season as a first-stringer since 2020.

During the offseason program, the Patriots used ex-Broncos swing tackle Calvin Anderson on the left side and ex-Jet Conor McDermott on the right. Fourth-round pick Sidy Sow, who has impressed the team during his initial NFL offseason, is being viewed as a right tackle, Volin adds. Sow is attempting to convert from college guard to NFL tackle. Anderson and McDermott each have 12 career starts; the latter started six games for the Patriots last season, after being signed off the Jets’ practice squad.

Although the Pats boast an interesting five-man contingent at this position, its ceiling largely hinges on Brown’s status. Training camp figures to be important at this spot, with the team likely set on its interior O-line.

Patriots Rumors: Sow, Board, Callender

Many thought that the Patriots would address their offensive tackle depth in the draft this year and many thought that the team failed to do so. New England did draft three offensive linemen at the end of April, but all three have generally been projected as interior linemen.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, that may not quite be the case. Breer posits that the Patriots actually have plans to work their fourth-round guard out of Eastern Michigan, Sidy Sow, at tackle. Sow had started 11 games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman for the Eagles before eventually moving to left guard. Sow measured in Indianapolis a 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, so he doesn’t quite have elite size, but his frame is plenty big enough to work at tackle.

The Patriots return Trent Brown at left tackle and Conor McDermott, who started six games for New England at the end of last season. The team signed Riley Reiff to come in and likely start at right tackle and also brought in Calvin Anderson, who had some starts for Denver in the past three years. After that, the Patriots’ depth is bare. Sow’s presence should help while also providing the versatility to take snaps at guard, as well.

Here are a few more rumors out of New England:

  • One of the Patriots’ more underrated offseason additions was that of veteran linebacker Chris Board. In his five year’s in the NFL, Board advanced from just a special teamer to a core special teamer worthy of snaps on defense with the Ravens and Lions. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Board was a hot commodity with several teams showing interest in free agency. New England was reportedly the most aggressive, which makes sense when considering the team’s notable respect for special teams specialists.
  • New England made an offseason addition to their front office staff this week, hiring Maya Ana Callender as a scouting assistant with the team, according to Neil Stratton of Callender has spent the last few years at Princeton as Director of Football Operations. This is a return to the NFL for Callender who has previous experience with the Eagles and Buccaneers.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/23

Rookie minicamps started today and more rookies put the names on the dotted line of their four-year contracts. Here are the mid- to late-round picks who signed today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Commanders