The New England Patriots locked up right guard Shaq Mason to a 5-year extension worth up to $50 million on Monday, locking up the team’s youngest starting lineman and solidifying the right side of the offensive line for what should be the remainder of quarterback Tom Brady’s career.
Mason turns 25 years old tomorrow (what a great birthday gift- that Bill Belichick is so thoughtful) and is four months younger than left tackle Trent Brown, 9 months younger than left guard Joe Thuney, and nearly two years younger than center David Andrews. Mason is arguably the best offensive lineman on the Patriots and he’s still (theoretically) a couple years away from entering his prime.
Mason joins Andrews (2021 UFA) and 30-year-old right tackle Marcus Cannon (2022 UFA) as the long-term projected starters, while Thuney (2020 UFA) is still one year away from being eligible for an extension of his own. Brown is a free agent after this season, so the Patriots could decide whether to extend him or move forward with rookie first round pick Isaiah Wynn- who is going to spend his rookie season on the injured reserve.
I have to wonder if Wynn’s season-ending injury played any role in Mason’s extension. While Wynn wasn’t necessarily in the running to replace Mason- Wynn had practiced at left guard and both tackle positions- his injury could have sparked an interest in Mason to get a deal done before the wear-and-tear of the regular season. And on the other hand, I wonder if Wynn’s injury took some of the leverage away from the team because they could no longer point to their first round pick as a potential replacement.
When looking across offensive line positions, Mason is easily the most valuable of the offensive linemen and it’s great to see the team reward his upside with a big contract as Mason will now be the highest-paid of the Patriots offensive line.
The deal is for “up to $50 million” so I’m curious to see the incentive structure. I would be shocked if Mason agreed to a deal that required him to make an All Pro team to get his money, but the Patriots have been signing players to “game-day incentive” deals so Mason would likely have to remain healthy for all 16 games to get the maximum amount.
The reason I would be shocked if Mason needed to hit any incentive beyond game day activity is that even at the maximum $10 million per year Mason would be considered a bargain. The $10 million would tie him with the Steelers’ David DeCastro and and the Bears’ Kyle Long for the ninth-highest paid interior lineman in the league. Both DeCastro and Long signed their deals in 2016, which makes Mason’s deal an even greater relative bargain.
Multiple interior linemen have signed for much greater amounts over the past two years, capped off with Cowboys guard Zack Martin signing a $14 million per year deal and Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell signing $13.3 million per year deal this offseason. So for Mason, who is in the tier below these All Pros, to sign for up to $10 million per year is a complete steal.
Mason will join Andrews and Cannon in locking down the right side of the offensive line for the remainder of Brady’s career and their combined ability to be stellar run blockers and pass protectors will grant the aging quarterback some peace of mind in the pocket.