The New England Patriots will apparently be missing one of their most versatile and reliable offensive linemen when the 2022 season begins.
All-Purpose lineman Ted Karras has reportedly agreed to a three-year, $18 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. Earlier on Monday, the Bengals announced an agreement with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers lineman Alex Kappa on a four-year, $40 million deal, clearly demonstrating a priority on improving their line, and protecting quarterback Joe Burrow.
As for the Patriots, several reports indicate that they very much desired to retain his services. The Pats reportedly offered Karras a three-year deal, worth $15 million. However, in recent days, New England reduced their offer to three years, $13 million; apparently misreading the competitiveness of his market.
As a result, Karras is headed for the Queen City.
Karras may have been one of the most underrated, yet valuable members of the Patriots roster in 2021. Amidst the struggles of fellow lineman Michael Onwenu, Karras stepped into the starting role at left tackle, providing both stability and stellar play on the field. By most accounts, the Patriots are quite interested in retaining Karras for 2022 and beyond. However, his versatility, coupled with a strong performance in 2021, made him a priority of the Bengals, who now procure his services.
With starting right tackle Trent Brown’s future in New England uncertain, amidst his entrance into the free agent realm, the spotlight now becomes focused on Onwenu, who is the logical choice to replace Karas as the team’s starting left guard.
At his best, Onwenu has shown a consistent and impressive ability to overwhelm defenders in the run game, while anchoring well to protecting the passer. It is a rare occasion on which he is easily bypassed on a pass block. Though he was one of the Patriots most prolific offensive linemen in 2020, Onwenu spent a great deal of the season aligning as a ‘jumbo tight end.’ At 6-foot-3, 350-pounds, the term took on a whole new meaning in 2021. When called upon to line up outside the tackle, Onwenu proved to be a surprisingly versatile player. Though making the move to a blocking tight end was a big challenge, he was able to use the opportunity to deepen his on-field savvy by working with multiple coaches on the Patriots staff. The 24-year-old may have seen a reduction in snaps as a result of the switch. With Karras’ departure, the Michigan product is now highly expected to return to his natural spot on the offensive line in the upcoming season. Still, it would not be a surprise to occasionally hear “No. 71 is eligible” via public address in a handful of New England’s 2022 season slate
Karras’ departure also seems to ensure that New England will retain the services of right guard Shaq Mason, who had been the subject of recent trade rumors. In 2021, Mason once again demonstrated why he is one of the Patriots most effective offensive linemen. While the 28-year-old has been a run-blocking force for the Patriots, he also showed some prowess in pass protection, allowing only one sack and 18 pressures on the season. His efforts earned him a spot on the Pro Football Focus (PFF) All-Pro Second Team, with an overall PFF Grade of 85.2. Mason was also well-disciplined, having been flagged for only four penalties. A former fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots, Mason is in his seventh season with the organization. He appeared in 15 of a possible 17 regular season games, taking 955 offensive snaps. With a clear need for stability and experience along the line, Mason’s value to his position all but ensures that he will continue to be a key part of the Pats’ offensive line in 2022.