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Resetting the Patriots’ offensive line after the Trent Brown trade

Related: Patriots to bring back offensive tackle Trent Brown via trade from the Raiders

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ first big move of the offseason saw them bring a familiar face back into the fold: offensive tackle Trent Brown will re-join the team via trade from the Las Vegas Raiders. He already spent time with the Patriots during the 2018 season, and won a Super Bowl with the team while serving as its starting left tackle.

Whether or not he will resume that role in New England remains to be seen, but bringing the 27-year-old back into the fold at least gives the team some options along the offensive line. With that being said, let’s break down the group and how it looks following the acquisition.

Offensive tackles

Trent Brown, Yodny Cajuste, Marcus Cannon, Korey Cunningham, Justin Herron, Michael Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn

With Brown being added to the mix, the Patriots have plenty of bodies to man the offensive tackle positions. The assumption is that he will fill one starting position — either on the left side previously manned by Isaiah Wynn, or on the right where he played with the Raiders and the team could have an opening in case it moves Michael Onwenu inside to guard.

Regardless of what happens, the Patriots do have options: Wynn and Onwenu can both play on the inside and at tackle, while Brown can fill both the left and right tackle spots. Furthermore, the team could now feel confident in parting ways with long-time right-side starter Marcus Cannon. Releasing Cannon, who sat out the 2020 season due to concerns about Covid-19, would create net salary cap savings of $6.3 million for the Patriots.

Interior offensive linemen

Marcus Martin, Shaq Mason, Najee Toran, Ross Reynolds

While they have plenty of talent at the tackle position, the Patriots are uncharacteristically thin inside: only Shaq Mason is a lock to be on the team in 2021 and has started a game for the team before. His fellow interior starters, left guard Joe Thuney and center David Andrews, are both headed for unrestricted free agency and as such naturally no locks to return.

Of course, the prospects of moving either Isaiah Wynn or Michael Onwenu to the vacant guard position opposite Mason makes the outlook a better one for the Patriots: both have spent time inside during their college careers at Georgia and Michigan, respectively, and project well there. Onwenu in particular might have an even higher ceiling at guard than tackle, despite playing some impressive football on the right side as a rookie in 2020.

Free agents

David Andrews (UFA), Jermaine Eluemunor (UFA), Joe Thuney (UFA)

Joe Thuney could very well become the highest paid guard in football this year, and a return to New England seems increasingly unlikely given the Trent Brown trade. With him in the fold to man one of the starting tackle spots, the Patriots could move either Wynn or Onwenu to the inside to fill the position he held for the last five seasons.

As for Andrews and Eluemunor, they are more realistic candidates to be brought back. While Eluemunor’s odds take a hit with Brown being added, Andrews is a priority to be re-signed: the long-time starting center is a team captain and one of the most consistent players on an offensive line that might look quite different in 2021 compared to last season. Keeping him in the fold would ensure some level of stability.

All in all, the Patriots trading for Brown gives them plenty of flexibility across the board. In turn, their best and most realistic offensive lineup for 2021 could consist of Wynn and Brown at the left and right tackle spots, respectively, with an Onwenu-Andrews-Mason group on the inside.