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Patriots Analysis

Who Will Be the Starting Left Tackle for the New England Patriots?



New England Patriots offensive tackle Calvin Anderson

The New England Patriots have most of their starting offensive line set for 2024. Mike Onwenu signed a three-year contract and will be plugged in at right tackle. Sidy Sow will look to build on his promising rookie year at right guard. Team captain David Andrews returns as the starting center, a spot he has held since his rookie year in 2015. If Cole Strange is healthy, he will be the starting left guard. New England’s roster features Atonio Mafi, Nick Leverett, and Michael Jordan to provide backup options if the former first-round pick is not ready to go. But who will be the Patriots starting left tackle?

Trent Brown signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, so last year’s starter is not an option. Other top free agent options including Tyron Smith (Jets) and Jonah Williams (Cardinals) are now signed elsewhere as well. Who is left? A look at some options.

Under Contract in New England (6)

Chukwuma Okorafor

New England signed Chukwuma Okorafor in free agency. He stated at the end of last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers he believed he was still a starting NFL tackle and wanted the opportunity to show it. However, Okorafor has played almost exclusively at right tackle in the NFL. Will he be able to make the move over to the left side? Based on the other options in camp, it seems he’ll be allowed to show he can.

Calvin Anderson

Anderson was severely limited in 2023 with the New England Patriots. He missed the offseason with an undisclosed illness. He played in five games in 2023, starting two. Anderson’s performance was unimpressive. However, Calvin Anderson declared on social media that he is now fully healthy and ready to show everyone in 2024. Anderson’s experience is largely at right tackle. Anderson needs to show he’s both back to 100% and able to handle full-time duties on the left side of the line.

Vederian Lowe

The Patriots acquired Lowe at the end of training camp, right before the final cutdown to a 53-player roster. He played 279 offensive snaps in which he could have allowed pressure in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus. Lowe allowed 38 QB pressures and six sacks. He was given a lengthy look last season and did not do enough to keep the job heading into 2024 despite a lack of other options. Unless the new coaching staff can tap into something with Vederian Lowe, he is not an attractive option based on his 2023 film.

Conor McDermott

McDermott fits as a serviceable right tackle who could make the team as a swing tackle. McDermott starting at left tackle is less than optimal. He played left tackle for the Patriots in 2023 and was fine. PFF graded him at 68.8 for the season, which is below the 70.0 score for a starter. Conor McDermott played in six games, starting five last season. If training camp began today, McDermott would be among those given a chance to win the starting left tackle job, optimal option or not.

Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

Wheatley Jr. played only five snaps in 2023 before spending most of the season on injured reserve. From an outside perspective, he has the advantage of not having bad film. He is truly the wild card of the group. Tyrone Wheatley Jr. didn’t have a lot of experience before coming to New England last year. He played tight end in college before being converted to tackle in the NFL’s Spring League back in 2021. His five snaps last season account for his only NFL game action to date.

Andrew Stueber

The New England Patriots selected Andrew Stueber in the seventh round (No. 245 overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Michigan. He has spent both of his NFL seasons as a member of the Patriots practice squad. Stueber has excellent size for the position at 6-foot-7 and 317 pounds. He has yet to get on the field beyond the preseason.

NFL Free Agents

While there are still several offensive tackles on the free agent market, there are only two who would appear to be favorites to start immediately. One is David Bakhtiari, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. The former All-Pro only played one game in 2023. He played only one game in 2021 as well. Given his injury history, Bakhtiari would have to be willing to agree to a very team-friendly deal. At this point, doing so with more of a contender likely makes more sense for the player.

The other free agent still on the market is Charles Leno Jr. He’s been a starting NFL left tackle for a decade, playing for the Chicago Bears (2014-2020) and Washington Commanders (2021-2023). Pro Football Focus ranked Leno 22 of 58 qualifying offensive tackles last season (72.5 grade). He appears to be a better option than any of the players currently on New England’s roster.

NFL Draft

It is a great year for tackles in the NFL Draft. There will be a record number selected in Round 1. Unfortunately for New England, those players will be taken between their first-round pick (No. 3) and second-round pick (No. 34). There is a possibility that somebody slides to them in Round 2. Otherwise, the most likely options still available are BYU’s Kingsley Suamataia and Arizona’s Jordan Morgan. But with New England also looking to add a talented wide receiver in the draft, tackle might have to wait until Round 3. Players like Houston’s Patrick Paul 0r Yale’s Kiran Amegadjie could be targeted there if they are still on the board.

Will the New England Patriots try to sign Charles Leno Jr. in free agency? Will they find a starting left tackle in the NFL Draft? Or are the Patriots hoping new offensive line coach Scott Peter can mold one of the current players under contract into a solid NFL starter in 2024? The answer might not be known for a while.