The New England Patriots are extremely young and inexperienced at offensive guard. While the offensive tackle and center positions are locked down by Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, and Bryan Stork, the team is looking to rookies Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason to start at guard.
If not Jackson and Mason, then third-year guard Josh Kline or undrafted free agent rookie David Andrews. Three rookies and a third-year player with five starts over two seasons.
Not exactly Logan Mankins.
There are definite flaws with each. Jackson isn't the most athletic of linemen, even though he looks to be a fairly certain day-one starter. Mason, for all of his run blocking prowess, looks to be a step back from the retired Dan Connolly as a pass blocker. Andrews is fairly nondescript on the field and while he might have a future, he's still too raw to be counted on as a starter.
The team also has Ryan Wendell, but the lineman hasn't been activated yet and could quite possibly start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Free agent guard Evan Mathis is the best guard of the past five seasons and is still unsigned. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Mathis is scheduled to visit with the Seahawks on Saturday, and is also receiving interest from other teams. Should the Patriots be one of the interested parties?
Signing a player like Mathis wouldn't signify that the team has given up on rookies. Rookie linemen are rarely stars in their first season- even Bryan Stork had growing pains- and Mathis would offer a quality stopgap at left guard while Shaq Mason continued to develop his pass blocking ability.
Mathis was released by the Eagles after asking for a restructured salary. Mathis was scheduled to earn $5.5 million this upcoming year, and the Eagles were reportedly willing to give Mathis a $1 million raise. The $5.5 million mark would've ranked 11th highest for guards in 2015. For reference, Logan Mankins is #1 with an $8.5 million mark. It was rumored Mathis wanted a $3 million increase to align with Mankins' price tag.
Mathis denied receiving an offer for a $1 million raise. He also stated that he wanted his salary increase to be contingent upon his election to the Pro Bowl and All Pro teams, which would imply that he earned his increased price tag by being the best guard in the league.
Mathis' price tag is now much less than what he was asking from the Eagles. The Dolphins, with a terrible offensive line, balked at giving Mathis the $5.5 million he was originally slated to receive. Teams are afraid to sign the 33-year-old guard to a multi-year deal due to his age (he will turn 34 on November 1st). It's quite possible that he will end up signing somewhere below his $5.5 million price tag.
The Patriots currently have $6.9 million in cap space, so the signing of Mathis would likely signify the end of any Patriots transactions for the rest of the year. It would seriously hamper the team's ability to take advantage of possible mid-season acquisitions. But there's no denying that Mathis would definitely provide an immediate improvement on the offensive line until the rookies are ready to start.
Would you be interested in signing Mathis?