As Kaczur departs, will Maneri step up?

As Kaczur departs, will Maneri step up?
February 28, 2011, 4:35 pm
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

With the Patriots telling Nick Kaczur to take a pay cut from his scheduled 3.4 million salary in 2011 or expect to be released, it got us thinking about New England's line depth.And one guy we've forgotten about a little is tackle Steve Maneri. Undrafted out of Temple last April, Maneri was signed by the Texans. They started to convert him from college tight end to NFL offensive tackle. He was released in the final cuts and the Patriots quickly claimed him. He had to be placed on the active roster for his first three games with the team. Then he was passed through waivers and signed to the Patriots practice squad. And there he remained through the rest of the season. The Patriots signed him to a future contract in late January, retaining his rights. At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, the 22-year-old Maneri is a very good athlete (he's run a 4.8 in the 40) and was, according to experts, one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft. He impressed at enough practices in 2010 to earn the coveted black jersey the team gives out weekly to players who showed well in practices. Kaczur had been supplanted at right guard by Sebastian Vollmer in 2009, but Kaczur also had the versatility to play guard. When Kaczur hurt his back and had season-ending surgery last year, Dan Connolly ably took over as the depth guy at guard (he played on both the left and right sides). Now Maneri, it seems, will be the depthdevelopmental guy at tackle, along with Quinn Ojinnaka. What happens with pending free agent Matt Light may determine how much we see of Maneri. Meanwhile, Thomas Austin - a 6-4, 310-pounder out of Clemson - is in a situation similar to Maneri's. He's guardcenter depth and - with Logan Mankins irritated, Stephen Neal coming back from another injury and center Dan Koppen nearing the end, Austin may find a role sooner rather than later.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran