Free agent analysis: Time for upgrade over Wendell?

Free agent analysis: Time for upgrade over Wendell?
February 7, 2014, 3:00 pm
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Today, Tom E. Curran concludes his examination of the Patriots’ potential free agents. Now: Ryan Wendell. Later today: Will Svitek.

Ryan Wendell was a pleasant surprise in 2012 when he took over at center in a mild offensive line shuffle.
 
Undrafted out of Fresno State in 2008, Wendell was – relative to expectations – probably the highest achiever in 2012.
 
But in 2013, Wendell’s performance backslid. A strong, stout, smart technically-sound player, Wendell is on the small side and can get overwhelmed in pass-blocking.
 
He’s usually good-to-excellent in run-blocking but – with a pocket quarterback like Tom Brady who isn’t apt to elude pressure by, the need for a clean pocket with a step-up lane is critical. And Wendell was not above average, it seemed.
 
With the 27-year-old hitting free agency, the Patriots could be looking at the draft for a center. Rimington Award winner Bryan Stork from Florida State could be attractive as a second or third-day pick.
 
I’m not sure there will be a long line of suitors in free agency for Wendell. Best-case scenario, the team will retain him but Dave DeGuglielmo, the Patriots new offensive line coach, would be well-served if he starts fashioning a Wendell successor or figures out why the scrappy Wendell backslid.