The New England Patriots offensive line has not been great in 2017, but they’ve made strides in recent weeks, including an excellent performance against the New York Jets where they allowed just one hit and three hurries on quarterback Tom Brady, their first sack-free performance of the year.
But while right tackle Marcus Cannon is coming off his best game all season and left tackle Nate Solder is looking for footing, right guard Shaq Mason has been outstanding all season and has risen up the ranks as one of the best guards in the entire NFL.
In fact, Pro Football Focus named Mason their highest-graded Patriot from this past Sunday’s game, and have him ranked as the second-best guard in the entire NFL.
Only Steelers RG David DeCastro outranks Mason, with the sixth-year DeCastro playing on a 5-year, $50 million contract that he signed last season. Mason, in his third season, has a low cap hit of $725,881, and should be in line for a huge pay day in the coming years.
Mason edges out 2015 first round pick and 5th overall selection RG Brandon Scherff of Washington, Lions RG T.J. Lang (3-year, $28.5 million), and Eagles RG Brandon Brooks (5-year, $40 million), making the five highest-graded guards in the NFL all right guards. In fact, eight of the top ten guards in the NFL by PFF’s rankings are all right guards, with Bills LG Richie Incognito (3-year, $15.8 million), Broncos RG Ronald Leary (4-year, $36 million), former Patriots and current Titans RG Josh Kline (2-year, $3.3 million), Cowboys RG Zack Martin (rookie deal), and Browns LG Joel Bitonio (6-year, $51.2 million) rounding out the top ten.
With right guard generally more isolated and difficult than left guard, maybe the Patriots will want to retain their star right guard. Teams are certainly placing a premium on the position, with only Kline playing under a bottom-dollar veteran contract; the Patriots are actually the team that signed Kline to a 2-year, $3.3 million deal, with the Titans claiming the guard to the same contract off waivers.
Kline will be a free agent after this season in line for a nice new deal, while Martin will enter the fifth-year of his rookie deal, also likely to receive a big contract. Mason will be in the fourth-year of a more cost-controlled deal and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots try and strike an extension with their 2015 fourth round pick.
Mason isn’t eligible for a new contract until after his third season, but would be in line for a deal for $10 million per season if he were an unrestricted free agent. Perhaps the Patriots could reach an extension before the 2018 season that factors in the final year of Mason’s rookie contract, as well as a further discount for striking an early deal.
The 4-year, $45 million extension that Panthers RG Trai Turner signed before the 4th year of his rookie contract should serve as a blueprint for Mason. When Turner’s final season of his rookie deal was factored in, he earned an average of $9.2 million over the course of his extension.
If Mason can keep playing at such a high level, he’ll be signing a big new contract of his own over the next year.