Ted Karras entered the 2019 season holding a clear role on the New England Patriots’ roster: he was the top backup option along the interior offensive line, capable of filling in at both guard spots and at center. In late August, however, his outlook for the upcoming campaign changed when starting center David Andrews was hospitalized and diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs — a condition that ended his season and moved Karras up the depth chart.
The former sixth-round draft pick went on to start 16 of the Patriots’ 17 games during the regular season and playoffs, and proved himself a serviceable replacement for Andrews. And even though New England’s season came to a premature end on wild card weekend, it was a positive one for Karras as a whole considering what lies ahead for him: he positioned himself well for his first ever trip to unrestricted free agency.
“I have given it my all and it is a tough way to leave this year, but I have so much admiration and respect for this team. I love a lot of these men dearly with all my heart,” Karras said in the aftermath of New England’s 20-13 loss against the Tennessee Titans on wild card weekend — the 26-year-old once again played 100% of snaps as a key piece of the team’s offensive line — that might have been his final game in a Patriots uniform.
Karras, after all, knows that the financial aspect of the game cannot be ignored when it comes to free agency. However, he takes a patient approach to entering the open market in mid-March: “There are a lot of unknowns as this is a business, but I am so thankful for these last four years that have been incredible and the absolute pleasure of a lifetime to be looking back and give thanks. Whatever happens, happens.”
“It is a big business, so we will see in March [...] I’m just so grateful for the time I got here. I guess we’ll just have to see. Like a lot of guys on this team, it’s going to be a different spring,” he added while referring to the Patriots’ comparatively early playoff exit — the team has played at least on divisional round weekend every January since 2011 — in combination with a long list of players about to enter the open market.
Karras himself could get a starter-caliber contract this spring, but there is also a chance he eventually returns to New England. The team also might have to let left guard Joe Thuney leave through free agency, after all, and could therefore see its versatile 2019 starting center — a role that is expected to return to Andrews again next season — as a potential replacement option. But as Karras himself noted, whatever happens, happens.