The NFL’s legal tampering window is not even open for an hour but already saw the New England Patriots lose one of their starting players: left tackle Trent Brown will sign a four-year, $66 million contract with the Oakland Raiders once free agency officially opens on Wednesday. Based on the reported per-year average, the deal is the largest for an offensive tackle in NFL history. Let’s find out what this means from New England’s perspective.
Tom Brady loses his blindside protector in back-to-back years
Between him becoming the Patriots’ starter and last offseason, Tom Brady played behind only two left tackles: Matt Light held down the fort from 2001 through 2011, with Nate Solder protecting his blindside from 2012 to 2017. While injuries caused some in-season movements, of course, the left tackle spot was as stable a position as any on New England’s roster year-in and year-out. Now, however, the Patriots see the spot left vacant for the second straight year: Solder left last offseason, his successor is leaving this year.
Isaiah Wynn is the front-runner to take over at left tackle
With Trent Brown no longer in New England, the road is now clear for the Patriots’ 2018 first-round selection to take over as the starting left tackle. Isaiah Wynn, of course, looked promising last offseason before injuring his Achilles during the second week of preseason. But even though he has yet to appear in an NFL game at left tackle and is coming off major injury, the 23-year-old will get every chance to earn the starting role. After all, he brings experience — a year in New England’s system plus a first-team All-SEC senior season at Georgia — as well as plenty of upside to the table.
Dante Scarnecchia’s legend keeps growing
It is no secret that Dante Scarnecchia is the NFL’s best offensive line coach. However, seeing two of his students earn record-breaking contracts in back-to-back years still further adds to his already impressive résumé. The question, of course, will now be how Brown fares in a new environment and under Raiders line coach Tom Cable. The aforementioned Nate Solder, of course, was inconsistent for the Giants in 2018 — it will be interesting to see if Brown fares better in Oakland. Meanwhile, Scarencchia will do what he has always done: groom Wynn and turn him into a starting-caliber NFL tackle.
The Patriots will get another high compensatory pick next year
In 2018, the Patriots lost starting left tackle Nate Solder to a record-breaking contract offer from the New York Giants. In 2019, they will lose Trent Brown to a record-breaking contract offer from the Raiders. The outcome, from New England’s perspective, is the same both times: the club needs a new left tackle and also get another high draft pick through the NFL’s compensatory formula. In all likelihood, that pick will again come at the end of the third round in the 2020 draft. The rich keep getting richer, even when losing free agents.