The New England Patriots’ offensive line faces some big questions entering the 2020 season. Two starters from a year ago — left guard Joe Thuney and center Ted Karras — are scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next month; David Andrews is expected to return after spending all of 2019 on injured reserve but is still a question mark given his medical status; veteran position coach Dante Scarnecchia announced his retirement in January.
Needless to say that the Patriots have their work cut out for them when it comes to building a competitive offensive line for the upcoming season. How could the team address all the uncertainties up front, you may ask? Ben Volin of the Boston Globe has an interesting solution: move starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn to the inside to fill the left guard position in case Thuney indeed leaves New England through free agency.
Volin wrote the following about his proposal:
Wynn played well last year, but he has not been able to satay healthy, and he is undersized for a tackle at 6 feet 3 inches. Kicking him in to left guard would fortify the interior line, and then the Patriots could find a bigger, sturdier left tackle. It would be smart to draft another tackle to develop for a year or two, but the Patriots should also look to free agency.
On the surface, the move seems reasonable: Wynn has considerable experience on the inside after having played there at Georgia, and at 6-foot-3 has better size to play at guard than at tackle. Furthermore, moving him one spot to the right would fortify the interior line alongside Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason. The Patriots would then not have to worry about Thuney leaving, and just needed to find a new left tackle to fill Wynn’s old spot.
When digging a little deeper, however, we can see that there are plenty of arguments to be made in favor of New England keeping the 24-year-old in the same position he manned during the 2019 season.
1.) Wynn was solid at left tackle in 2019
The Patriots trusted Wynn to protect quarterback Tom Brady’s blindside after the departure of Trent Brown in free agency, and he did a solid if at times unspectacular job. While he missed eight games due to a toe injury, he showcased his outstanding technique on a week-to-week basis and improved every game as he became more comfortable in his role. Wynn’s potential was on full display last year, and he has all the tools to become a franchise left tackle in the mold of Matt Light and Nate Solder.
2.) The Patriots have no established option waiting in the wings
By the time Matt Light announced his retirement, Nate Solder already had one year of experience under his belt. When Wynn took over in 2019, he too was in his second year in the system. While the Patriots have Yodny Cajuste and Korey Cunningham as potential in-house replacements for Wynn, neither has the same pedigree or experience as the other left tackles the Patriots elevated to a starting role. This means that they might look to the outside for some help.
3.) The tackle market is more competitive than the guard market
If the Patriots want to bring a free agent on board to fill their left tackle spot with Wynn moving to the inside, they will have to face a difficult situation: starting-caliber left tackles generate a competitive market — much more so than guards, for example. So why would New England possibly overpay for a new left tackle if a significant part of that same money could be used to bring back Thuney? Or sign players who are no safe bets like the Carolina Panthers’ Daryl Williams or the Arizona Cardinals’ Marcus Gilbert, both suggested by Volin in his article?
4.) Moving Wynn would open more holes than it fixes
In case the upcoming weeks develop as expected — Thuney leaves via free agency, Andrews is cleared to return — the Patriots would enter 2020 with one hole along their offensive line: left guard. Wynn would fill that hole if moved to the inside, but he would still not be a surefire solution at the position after spending his first two years in the NFL at the left tackle position. And suddenly you would find yourself in a situation in which your entire left side of the line would have to get used to playing its respective roles, Wynn at guard and a new left tackle in a new environment. Not exactly ideal.
While moving Wynn to the inside may be a popular idea at 53 State Street, the proposal does not really hold up when looking at it from a more in-depth perspective. Wynn has proven himself capable of playing left tackle at an NFL level, so why try to fix what is not broken? The Patriots will likely need to find a new guard to play alongside their former first-round draft pick, sure, but finding a plug-and-play option at that position seems like the easier thing to do than to move Wynn around. Just ask Joe Thuney.