During his first three years in the NFL, former sixth-round draft pick Ted Karras started only five games for the New England Patriots. While he was serviceable in limited action, his role heading into the 2019 season appeared to be set in stone: he was the top backup option along the interior offensive line, capable of filling in at both guard spots as well as the center position. In late August, however, his outlook for the upcoming season changed.
The Patriots’ starting center, David Andrews, was hospitalized and later diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs — a condition that ended his season and moved Karras up the depth chart. The Illinois product went on to start 16 of New England’s 17 games during the regular season and playoffs, and proved himself a capable stand-in for Andrews that performed well despite the difficult circumstances of his ascension into the starting offensive line.
2019 was therefore a positive season for Karras, even though he was a downgrade from Andrews and could not help the Patriots’ campaign from coming to a premature end on wild card weekend. The 26-year-old, however, positioned himself well with a trip to unrestricted free agency awaiting on the horizon. And he knows that anything seems to be possible at this point in time, as he recently told ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss.
“My fate is kind of hanging in the balance here,” said Karras about entering free agency on March 18 for just the second time in his four-year career (the first was a one-day stint on the open market following 2017’s roster cutdown day; he eventually returned to New England via its practice squad). “You’re playing a waiting game. You can’t talk to anyone. It’s very exciting to have created a little market. I’m very grateful.”
“I’m going to take everything as it comes and be open to any possibility. Obviously, I know it’s a business. I’d love to stay. But I understand there is a business side to it and there are a lot of dominoes that have to fall, and I’m just one of them,” continued Karras while apparently referencing the Patriots’ long list of free-agents-to-be: the team’s starting center from last season is one of 16 players scheduled to see their contracts expire next week.
Karras himself could get a starter-caliber contract this spring and leave New England, but there is also a chance he eventually returns. The team will likely have to let left guard Joe Thuney go in 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. As Karras pointed out, though, there are a lot of dominoes to fall.