The New England Patriots’ interior offensive line is undergoing some considerable turnover this offseason. With starting left guard Joe Thuney already headed to the Kansas City Chiefs on a record-breaking five-year pact, the writing also is on the wall for center David Andrews to move on: the Patriots brought back Ted Karras via a reported one-year contract, possibly preparing themselves to watch Andrews join greener pastures elsewhere.
While it remains to be seen how that situation turns out, Karras is as solid a contingency option as the Patriots could have found via free agency: he has considerable experience in their system, and has started 21 games during his first stint with the organization.
Name: Ted Karras
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6-foot-4, 305 pounds
Contract: 1 year, $4 million
Karras originally joined the Patriots as a sixth-round selection in the NFL’s 2016 draft. Despite his draft status, the Illinois product was able to make the team as a rookie and even was pressed into action as a starter in his first ever regular season game: Karras played the 2016 season opener at right guard in place of an injured Shaq Mason. Stepping in for injured starters was Karras’ M.O. during his first four years in New England: while never holding a nominal starting spot, he still started 21 games for the club.
The final 16 of those came in 2019, when he replaced center David Andrews following his season-ending blood clots diagnosis. Karras looked solid in this capacity and after the season had the opportunity to return to New England on a new contract. However, he instead decided to take his talents elsewhere to compete for a starting gig. The Miami Dolphins signed him to a one-year deal and he went on to start all 16 of their games during the 2020 campaign to bring his career total to 37.
What is his projected role in New England? With Andrews now projected to leave New England, Karras is a prime candidate to take over the starting center position — just like he did in 2019. Of course, the expectation is that the Patriots would add more competition either in free agency or via the draft. At the bare minimum, Karras would serve as a starting-caliber backup and mentor for the team’s next long-term solution at the position.
Where does he fit on the interior offensive line depth chart? The Patriots are currently understaffed along the interior O-line. With Joe Thuney gone and David Andrews seemingly on his way out as well, Karras would join a group consisting of projected starting guards Michael Onwenu and Shaq Mason as well as backups Marcus Martin, Najee Toran and Ross Reynolds. At the moment, Karras is a starter.
Does he have positional versatility? The Patriots want their interior offensive linemen to be able to play more than just one role, and Karras is able to do just that. While the majority of his 37 career starts came at center, he also has experience playing the two guard positions. If not earning a starting role in 2021, he would serve as a versatile backup for all three spots.
What is his special teams value? Like most offensive linemen, Karras’ special teams value is limited simply due to the position he plays and the athletic profile it demands. That said, he has repeatedly been used as a protector on field goal and extra point kicks — a role he could resume in New England regardless of his spot on the center depth chart.
What does it mean for New England’s salary cap? Karras signing a one-year deal will likely not impact the Patriots’ salary cap too much. Even if fully guaranteed, New England would lose only $3.1 million in cap space due to him replacing another player on the list of the top 51 contracts that are counted during the offseason. It seems likely that his actual cap impact is smaller than that.
What does it mean for New England’s draft outlook? With Andrews possibly on his way out and Karras only on a one-year deal, the Patriots are definitely in the market for some upgrades at the center position. Luckily for them, the interior offensive line class is a deep one this year, meaning that they should be in a position to get quality talent to groom alongside the experienced Karras.
One-sentence verdict: If that is it for David Andrews, the Patriots did manage to get an experienced replacement on board.
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