By Tom E. Curran
This is the third in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position: Offensive tackle.Who's here?
Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Nick Kaczur, Mark Levoir, Steve Maneri.
Who's out there?
Matt Light (Patriots), Willie Colon (Steelers), Marshal Yanda (Ravens), Sean Locklear (Seahawks), Tyson Clabo (Falcons), Ryan O'Callagahan (Chiefs), Doug Free (Cowboys), Langston Walker (Raiders).What's the need?
From 1-10? Let's call it a 4.Previous to the draft, it was a 10 as in - they have to sign a free agent left tackle, probably Matt Light. But now that they've drafted Nate Solder, the urgency is gone. Still, the Patriots will want a tutorsafety net for Solder and the feeling here is that Light will be retained to fill that role.
As for the rest, Vollmer's got the right side locked down. Kaczur makes too much money, gets hurt too much and isn't that good when he actually plays. He's staring at a pay cut or a release. Levoir is a depth guy. Maneri? The converted Temple tight end may have some upside to him. He hasn't yet gotten out to display it yet. Who do they chase?
Higher-end guys like Colon, Clabo and Free are unlikely. The Patriots just simply need depth and versatility behind the two guys they surely expect to bookend their offensive line for the next six seasons at least. Light is a layup. Also, the versatile Marshal Yanda or the slightly banged-up Jared Gaither could be possibilities. Who do we look at next?
Interior offensive linemen
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
FOXBORO -- The Patriots didn't release third-year center Bryan Stork, though they informed him they would do so early on Wednesday. Instead, they traded him to the Washington Redskins.
The deal was announced on Wednesday afternoon. In return for the former fourth-round pick out of Florida State, the Patriots received a conditional 2017 seventh-round pick from Washington.
Stork is reportedly mulling retirement. If he does not report to the Redskins, and the conditions of the deal are not met, the Patriots would not receive compensation.
The seventh-round pick would provide the Patriots with a seventh-rounder in 2017 that they didn't have when the day began. The team traded its original seventh-rounder to the Lions last season in exchange for tight end Michael Williams.
(The Patriots could, in theory, receive a seventh-rounder from the Lions since they received a conditional seventh in a trade for linebacker Jonathan Bostic, who was sent to Detroit in May. But because Bostic is recovering from foot surgery, the conditions of that trade may prevent the pick from ever making its way to New England.)
The Patriots informed Stork of his release early Wednesday, but before that move was processed, the Patriots and Redskins were able to work out a deal.
Stork has had difficulty staying healthy as a pro, his emotions sometimes got the best of him on the field, and teammate David Andrews had beaten him for the starting center role with the Patriots. Still, Stork's teammate and friend Jimmy Garoppolo said it was tough to see Stork move on.
Despite the question marks that accompany Stork's arrival in Washington -- that is, if he decides to report -- the Redskins were more than willing to pay the modest price to acquire him. They are desperate for help at the center position.
FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a welcome face back on the practice field on Wednesday, as tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to action after missing the team's previous five practices as he dealt with an injury.
Gronkowski participated in the warmup period of practice and then remained with the majority of his teammates for drills.
The last time Gronkowski was spotted on the field was last Monday, which was the first of three joint practices between the Patriots and the Bears. He pulled up after pursuing a Tom Brady pass, walked along the sideline, met with head trainer Jim Whalen, and then left practice early. He did not suit up for Thursday's game against Chicago.
Gronkowski has not participated in a preseason game since 2012.
Patriots not spotted at Wednesday's practice were Shaq Mason, Jonathan Cooper, Sebastian Vollmer (on the physically unable to perform list) and Dion Lewis (also on PUP). Alan Branch, who has been suspended by the team before last week's preseason game, was also missing.
Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Malcolm Mitchell, Shea McClellin, Tre' Jackson (PUP) and Danny Amendola (PUP) were present for warmups but went to a lower field for conditioning. Amendola and Jackson were not in pads for the short-and-shells session.
Jon Bon Jovi was taking in the session alongside Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft.
Michael Felger wants no part of Josh Gordon-to-the-Patriots, no matter the price.