Though the New England Patriots have reshuffled their offensive line, the group is still hoping to be one of the league’s most dominant offensive fronts.
Despite losing star left guard Joe Thuney to the Kansas City Chiefs, who signed a mega five-year, $80 million deal to protect Patrick Mahomes, the Patriots should be able to offset his loss. David Andrews re-signed to the tune of $19 million over four years. Andrews’ return was in doubt after the team made a slew of notable additions in free agency, including bringing back center Ted Karras.
The Patriots brought back offensive tackle Trent Brown, trading a 2021 fifth-round pick to the Raiders for Brown and a 2021 seventh-round selection. The 6-8 tackle restructured his contract in the process to now a one-year deal worth $11 million. Brown started every game for the Patriots during the team’s 2018 Super Bowl campaign and was rewarded for his efforts by signing a four-year, $66 million deal with the Raiders. A 2019 Pro Bowl selection, the Patriots are hopeful that Brown can return to form as one of the league’s premier tackles.
“First off, you forget how big Trent is,” Andrews said. “I kind of got used to it in 2018 and then I saw him the other day, he was laying on the training table before working out and I just could not believe how big that human is. Trent has been great, he’s obviously a great player and familiar with a lot of us. Just excited to have him back, a great player who can obviously help our football team; physical, big, and obviously a great teammate, a guy that we love having around, so very excited to have him back.”
The Patriots picked up 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn’s fifth-year option, which will keep him in Foxboro through at least 2022. Although he was limited to 18 games in his first three seasons due to injury, Wynn is a physical presence with unique athleticism.
“Obviously, I’ve had a relationship with Isaiah for a long time, playing with him at Georgia and watching him over the years at Georgia,” said Andrews. “I always respected how he went about things. I think he’s a tough football player. Obviously unfortunate some of the things he’s had to battle through, but that’s just part of this game and you can’t really control those. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is.
"When Isaiah is out there, he’s a great player. He can do a lot of different things with his athletic ability. He can really help us out and it’s interesting to watch him. I always enjoy watching him and a lot of people say, ‘Well, maybe his size doesn’t benefit him’ but then you watch him block the crap out of people. Very excited for him.”
Marcus Cannon, the most experienced of the Patriots’ tackles, was traded to the Houston Texans in exchange for pick swaps in the fourth, fifth and sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Cannon became expendable after the acquisition of Brown. With Wynn projected to start, there was simply no room for Cannon and his $6.28 million salary-cap hit.
Michael Onwenu, who spent most of his rookie season at right tackle, looks to slide inside to occupy Thuney’s former place along with stalwart Shaq Mason. Onwenu impressed during his first season, usually with his strength to win battles in the trenches. The 6-3, 350-pound lineman played inside while in college at the University of Michigan, so he should be able to make the transition without much issue.
Karras is a valuable depth piece, but the majority of the second unit is unproven at the NFL level. Justin Herron started six games last season while seeing time in 12 contests. Korey Cunningham also appeared in 11 games, but did not register a start.
The battles for time will be something to watch for in training camp. The group will look to mesh during OTAs, a key time to establish communication up front.
“You know, there are certain limitations on what we can do practice-wise,” said Andrews. “But now it comes down to the stuff that people don’t want to talk about, is how much work we put in the next 3-4 months. We made a lot of improvement on paper, and that’s definitely part of it and now we’ve got to become a football team. We’ve got to learn to work together because obviously there is going to be a lot of new faces and just have to become a team and start putting it all together here.”