When news broke that the New England Patriots would bring offensive lineman Ted Karras back into the fold after a one-year stint with the Miami Dolphins, a follow-up move seemed to be a certainty. Fellow free agent and long-time starting center David Andrews had to be headed to another team, or else Karras would likely not have returned.
Well, it turns out that Andrews did return after all. The team captain signed a four-year pact that became official just three days after Karras’ own one-year contract.
Andrews’ return left the Patriots with two experienced and high-quality players at the center position, and some impressive depth along the offensive line. However, it also put Karras in an uncertain situation after it seemed like he returned with the intention of becoming the starter again in the first place.
However, the 28-year-old was well aware that he would not be handed a starting spot, or any other role, just because he had put his signature under a contract that includes $3 million in full guarantees.
“Nothing is ever promised in this organization,” Karras said during his (re-)introductory media conference call on Tuesday. “I got the opportunity with a contract, and I’ll have to earn every role I get. I’m not going to be slated in anywhere, I’m going to have to fight to contribute on this team.”
On paper, signing both Karras and Andrews gives the Patriots one of the most talented offensive line in football. Despite losing ultra-reliable starting left guard Joe Thuney to the Kansas City Chiefs, New England’s top-five — Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown — are as promising as any in the league. Having a five-year veteran such as Karras as a versatile backup only adds to the group’s overall quality.
Karras himself, meanwhile, does not seem bothered by his potential outlook as a depth player rather than a starter.
“I’m comfortable with anything,” he said. “I’ll play any position to survive in this league if they’ll give me a job. I’m ready to play whatever and working hard to be a contributor on this team.”
He has the same mindset when it comes to the Patriots’ decision to re-sign another starting-caliber center shortly after he decided to return to the organization last week.
“Yes, I’m still happy for David. Great football player, great friend, deserves everything he’s earned in this league. I’m really excited to play with him, play next to him, and work towards winning as many games as we can,” Karras said.
“I’m very excited to get back to work with a lot of guys that I respect and have long-time relationships with. We have a lot of good football players and looking forward to being back in Foxborough.”
Karras’ first tenure as a Patriot started in 2016, when the team selected him in the sixth round of the draft. For the first three years of his career, he served as a versatile and valuable depth option along the team’s interior offensive line and earned a pair of Super Bowl rings along the way. In 2019, however, he was elevated to the starting center role after Andrews was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs.
Karras went on to 16 games — missing one because of a sprained MCL — and did an admirable job at the heart of the Patriots’ offense. The following offseason and with Andrews returning to the lineup, the Illinois product decided to move on and join the Dolphins on a one-year contract.
He started all 16 games for Miami and played all 1,067 offensive snaps. Despite that, though, he “only” signed another one-year pact after entering unrestricted free agency for the second straight offseason.
With the salary cap expected to bounce back next season, however, that decision could turn out to be a smart one for the Illinois product. That said, Karras is not concerned about his future outlook beyond the upcoming 2021 season.
“I think football is a yearly proposition anyway,” he said. “You come together however a team is built. That was just the opportunity that was presented to me, and if that ends up being advantageous then all the better.”
For the time being, however, Karras is focused on what lies ahead: making the Patriots’ roster in whichever role necessary, and proving head coach/general manager Bill Belichick that he made a good call bringing him back.
“Very grateful for the opportunity,” Karras said. “To have a coach of that stature want you to be on his team for a second time around is an honor. Looking forward to working hard to validate that decision.”