The New England Patriots added a free agent to their roster today, but it wasn't wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Instead, they added former Atlanta Falcons' offensive tackle Will Svitek. Svitek missed all of last season because of injury, but started 10 games at left tackle for Sam Baker the previous year.
Although his healthy is a question mark, and this is not the signing Patriots' fans were expecting, this appears on the onset to be an astute move from the franchise. Svitek, when healthy is one of the best backups in the league and wasn't even a backup before being injured in 2011.
The former sixth round pick of the 2005 draft is 31 years of age and coming off of an injury to his upper arm that occured prior to the beginning of last year's regular season. For that reason, he likely won't have cost the franchise much financially and will be seen as a low-risk high-reward addition.
With him on the roster, the Patriots have flexibility in more than one way.
Nate Solder was excellent as the team's starting left tackle last year, but if the coaching staff wants to start Svitek there they have the flexibilty to move Solder back to right tackle. Solder played some right tackle as a rookie, but it's also possible that Svitek could slide into right tackle for the Patriots because of their pass heavy scheme. He would obviously need to adjust and be evaluated on that side of the line before he earns the starting spot.
The signing also allows them to escape the handcuffs of re-signing Sebastien Vollmer to a long-term deal. Vollmer is one of the best right tackles in the NFL, arguably the very best, but has chronic back issues and has struggled with his healthy throughout his career. By signing Svitek before coming to an agreement with Vollmer, they could now let the former starter walk free or set a low salary and ask him to beat it on the open market or sign on the dotted line.
Svitek isn't the kind of addition who will push the Patriots over the top, but he is the kind of smart signing that successful franchises build championship rosters with.