Marcus Cannon trade removes layer of tackle depth behind Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown

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Phil Perry
·3 min read
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Perry: What the Cannon trade means for the Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

On the eve of free agency, the Patriots have opted to trade one of their most accomplished veterans to an organization with New England ties.

Marcus Cannon is headed to the Texans, according to the Boston Globe, in a deal that will see Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio swap picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. 

When the Patriots acquired tackle Trent Brown via trade last week, that signaled something could be coming as it related to Cannon. Set to count $9.6 million against the team's cap in 2021, it saves the Patriots just over $6 million in cap space to trade him. Isaiah Wynn is headed into the final year of his rookie contract -- unless his fifth-year option is picked up by the deadline on May 3 -- and set to count $3.6 million against the cap.

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Cannon, 33 in May, opted out of the 2020 season. A graduate of Odessa High in Texas and Texas Christian University, he still has roots in the Lone Star State. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, he had not yet reported to Foxboro for offseason workouts as had others who'd opted out last season.

Cannon was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round in 2011. He brings with him to Houston three championship rings -- including two (2016, 2018) he won as a starter and key component to the overall functionality of the offense. In Super Bowl LI, it was Cannon who led the way for James White's game-winning touchdown in overtime. In Super Bowl LIII, Cannon was one of the earth-movers up front that allowed the Patriots to ride their running game to a sixth title. He was named a second-team All-Pro in 2016, his first full season starting at right tackle after a long and productive run by his predecessor on that side Sebastian Vollmer. 

The details of the pick swaps have yet to be released, but if the teams swap their original selections (not picks that have been acquired via trade or compensatory selections), the Patriots would move from No. 120 to No. 109 in the fourth round, from No. 158 to No. 147 in the fifth round, and from No. 196 to No. 187 in the sixth round. The value gained from those moves comes out to about the same value as one mid-level fifth-round draft choice, according to Rich Hill's trade chart.

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The Patriots also save cap dollars with the move, though they weren't clamoring for space. With more than $60 million available going into the offseason, they had enough room to keep Cannon, Brown and Wynn on the roster going into training camp. Dealing Cannon now shines the spotlight on their depth along the offensive line. 

A disappointment with the Raiders, it's been no secret that Brown has dealt with issues pertaining to his focus and fitness in the past -- including early on during his tenure in Foxboro. Now, with Cannon out, New England has lost a layer of security at tackle where its two projected starters, Wynn and Brown, have combined to miss 30 games over the last two seasons.

The Patriots have some depth at tackle if they need it. Michael Onwenu played very well at right tackle in 2020, surprising the Patriots after he came to the team thought to be a guard-only prospect in the sixth round of last year's draft. But Onwenu's best spot may be at guard, and he may be needed there to replace free-agent-to-be Joe Thuney. The Patriots have another second-year tackle in Justin Herron who could fill in if necessary. Reserve tackles Korey Cunningham and Yodny Cajuste are also under contract for 2021.