With one month to go until they are scheduled to report to training camp, the New England Patriots currently have 89 of a possible 90 players under contract. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns on September 5 and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots keep their dynasty alive in Year One after Tom Brady.
Today, the series continues with a member of New England’s starting offensive line.
Name: David Andrews
Jersey number: 60
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6-foot-3, 300 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2020 (2021 UFA)
What is his experience? Andrews originally arrived in the league as an undrafted free agent signing by the Patriots in 2015 — one that went on to see extensive action during his rookie seaso: with starting center Bryan Stork opening the year on short-term injured reserve, the Georgia product started the first 10 games of the season plus one more later that year and proved his upside as an NFL-caliber lineman. The following offseason, therefore, Andrews and Stork found themselves in an open battle for the starting role.
Andrews ended up winning the job and never looked back. He held down the fort in the middle of New England’s offensive line ever since the 2016 season and along the way has proven himself one of the most reliable interior offensive linemen in pro football: Andrews started 46 of a possible 48 regular season contests over the next three seasons, as well as all nine playoff games — including the Patriots’ Super Bowl victories against the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams to cap the 2016 and 2018 seasons.
While his performances earned him a three-year contract extension after just his first season as the starting center and turned him into a core member of New England’s offense, Andrews was no less impressive off the field. Voted a captain by his teammates in both 2017 and 2018, he established himself as the leader inside the Patriots’ locker room and remained an active part of the team even when he was forced to sit out the entire 2019 season after blood clots were discovered in his lungs.
What did his 2019 season look like? Coming off another highly productive campaign that saw him lead the Patriots’ offensive line on one of the best postseason runs in NFL history and to another championship, Andrews was a lock to fill the starting center role for a fourth straight season — even though he did see some practice reps at left guard at one point during New England’s organized team activities. Once the team’s training camp began two months later, though, Andrews was back in his usual spot.
That said, the veteran did not open camp alongside his teammates: he was absent during the first two days of practices and considered day-to-day because of an undisclosed ailment. While he was not ready to work out in full capacity when he returned, his workload eventually increased and he was back at full capacity quickly as the Patriots headed into their preseason schedule. Andrews only appearing in one game — he played 28 offensive snaps in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers — was therefore no cause for concern.
Following the game, however, the veteran went to consult a doctor after neither feeling well during nor after the contest. He eventually had to spend five nights in hospital after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism: the blood clots that were discovered in his lungs forced the team to shut him down for the year. Andrews was moved to season-ending injured reserve on roster cutdown day, and had to spend the entire campaign on the sidelines while slowly rebuilding his body to get back in playing shape for 2020.
Even though he was unable to appear in even a single game during his fifth year in the league, Andrews did spend considerable time around the Patriots facility throughout the season: he regularly participated in meetings, was on the sidelines on game day, and continued to lead his position group while essentially serving as another coaching assistant. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, he was trying to regain his playing weight of 300 pounds and trying to stay in his regular routine.
What is his projected role? Following his one-year absence and after being medically cleared to return to football, Andrews will resume his role as the Patriots’ starting center in 2020. As such, he will hardly ever leave the field while simultaneously being responsible for not just blocking in the passing and the running game but also the center-quarterback exchange of the football and the line calls up front: Andrews plays a vital role in setting protections and blocks, and communicating with his fellow linemen.
What is his special teams value? While Andrews’ replacement as New England’s starting center last season — Ted Karras — saw regular action in the game’s third phase in 2019, the team captain himself is not expected to be used often if at all on special teams: he has only 18 kicking game snaps on his career résumé, and just six of them happened since he became the Patriots’ starting center in 2015. If the coaching staff does opt to use him on special teams, Andrews will likely play exclusively on field goal and extra point kicking units.
Does he have positional versatility? The overwhelming majority of Andrews’ snaps since arriving in New England has come at the center position. That said, he does have some experience playing other spots along the interior offensive line as well: he lined up at left guard during last year’s OTA practices, as noted above, and also has played two regular season snaps at the position in his career — one in 2015 and another in 2018. He also lined up at right guard for one snap during his rookie campaign.
What is his salary cap situation? Entering the final season of the three-year, $9 million extension he signed back in 2017, Andrews is currently on the Patriots’ books with a salary cap hit of $3.4 million. Given his importance to the team’s offensive operation and locker room culture, he can therefore be considered a bargain: a healthy Andrews is among the best centers in football, yet he carries only the 21st highest cap number in the league at his position.
What is his roster outlook? Andrews is a lock to make the Patriots’ roster, but there are still some questions surrounding him entering the 2020 season — most of which tied to his health and recovery from the blood clots that forced him to sit out the 2019 campaign. Will he be able to participate fully in practice? Have his strength or conditioning suffered? How quickly if at all will he return to his pre-injured reserve form? Add the uncertainty surrounding New England’s quarterback position, and how the chemistry with the new starter is developing, and Andrews becomes a player to watch not just in training camp but all season long.