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Shaq Mason wants to stay in New England if he can

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An update from the typically reserved guard on his future with the Patriots amid speculation that he could leave in free agency.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Pop quiz: how many guys do you know that are 6’1’’ and 310 lbs, and can do this?

Show that one to your one dumb friend that we all have that thinks all offensive linemen do is go on the 2011 Red Sox diet of fried chicken and beer run into each other.

Dumb friends aside, the exploding free agent market for offensive guards and teams sending nightmare defensive linemen like Aaron Donald and Jurrell Casey and Calais Campbell up the middle seems like a matches and gasoline combo for the Patriots with Shaq Mason about to hit free agency next year. And as Andre on The League proved to us with basically all of his style choices, plenty of people with money to burn will gladly throw all kinds of money at a problem until it’s fixed.

That sounded way better in my head as an analogy for the Patriots getting outbid on Nate Solder last year. Whatever.

At least one piece of the puzzle is in play with Shaq, though - he wants to be here. The Boston Herald caught up with Mason over the weekend and asked him point-blank if he wanted to stay with the Patriots:

“Yes, I would,” Mason said. “But as far as all that goes, I don’t look ahead, honestly. I’m just worried about reporting to training camp July 25 and taking it from there.”

“Honestly, I’ve been working and just taking it one step at a time,” Mason said. “Just honing in on details, the smaller things of my game, just become a better overall player.”

Big missed opportunity to ask the Georgia Tech alum how he felt about the Patriots drafting two Georgia Bulldogs in the first round, IMO.

The Herald also got into what Shaq’s been up to in between OTAs and training camp, and the answer is...yoga with Dont’a Hightower?

Believe it:

Ever since OTAs concluded in early June, Mason has been working out in his hometown of Columbia, Tenn. The city is about 20 miles north of Dont’a Hightower’s hometown, and the two Patriots have connected frequently for sessions of Bikram yoga. This is the second offseason in which Mason — as nimble as any 310-pound man — has made yoga a regular part of his routine.

“I definitely felt better doing it,” Mason said. “Workouts are easier, things like that. It just loosens up everything.”

Pliability. It’s not just for quarterbacks anymore!

(Also, side note: having been to Columbia, TN several times, it’s about an hour south of Nashville and could be affectionately referred to as “the boonies”. A sampling of the neighboring towns: Poplar Top, Mt. Pleasant, Culleoka, and, I kid you not, Yokely.)

For the salary cap nerds out there, remarkably, only one Patriots offensive lineman has a cap hit of over $2.5 million this season - 2016 Second Team All-Pro Marcus Cannon, who’s slated to count for the not-great-but-definitely-could-be-worse cap hit of $5.77 million. The rest of the line looks something like this against the ‘18 cap. Marvel at the cheapness! Your yard-sale-browsing grandpa would be proud.

David Andrews (C): $2.35 million

Isaiah Wynn (LT/G): $2.08 million

(Side Note #2: If an O-lineman can play guard and tackle, can we start calling them “offensive weapons” too? Let’s make that happen)

Shaq Mason (RG): $2.01 million

Trent Brown (LT/RT): $1.90 million

LaAdrian Waddle (RT): $1.63 million

Joe Thuney (LG): $858,537

It’s a strange world we live in where passing on the opportunity to re-sign Nate Solder may have given New England the flexibility to re-sign a pretty good guard like Shaq Mason, but here we are.

Either way, if the Patriots approach this the way they usually do, Mason will likely get an offer of some kind during the season this year. If the dollars that New England has in mind matches what Shaq’s willing to take, they’ll cross the T’s and dot the lowercase J’s just like Marcus Cannon did in 2016 and that’ll be that. If they don’t see eye to eye on the numbers, the Patriots will probably let Shaq test the market like they’ve done with several key free agents over the last few years.

Which, please don’t make me do Shaq Mason Watch 2019™, unless someone wants to shoot me a Venmo with the qualification “must be used for whiskey”.

What do you guys think? What would you pay Shaq to keep the line together? Or would you let him walk and shake up the line again?