With the offseason workout program in the books and training camp being kicked off later this month, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2021.”
The team currently has 90 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in August and September 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 bounce back from what was a disappointing 7-9 season last year.
Today, the series continues with center David Andrews.
Name: David Andrews
Jersey number: 60
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6-foot-3, 300 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 ERFA)
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 season: 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 three of the last four years, he established himself as a leader inside the Patriots’ locker room and remained an active part of the team even when he was forced to sit out the 2019 season after blood clots were discovered in his lungs.
What did his 2020 season look like? After having missed all of 2019 because of the aforementioned diagnosis, Andrews revealed in late April that he had received medical clearance to return to the field for the Patriots’ 2020 campaign. Following his announcement, the veteran lineman therefore went on to participate in New England’s virtual offseason workout program and also was on the field with the rest of the team when it opened its training camp in early August.
While a league-high eight other members of the organization decided to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic, Andrews — despite his recent medical history — did not and reassumed his role as New England’s starting center and the lead communicator up front. As such, he played an integral role in the unit’s success throughout the season, proving his value not just as a run blocker and pass protector but also a team leader in the locker room.
All in all, Andrews appeared in 12 of a possible 16 games during the regular season. He did miss three contests after undergoing surgery on a fractured thumb on his right snapping hand — New England placed him on short-term injured reserve — and also sat out the season finale against the New York Jets due to a calf injury. Generally, however, he was his usual reliable self in his first year back. He was on the field for 724 of a possible 1,011 offensive snaps (71.6%), exclusively lining up at center throughout the season.
When on the field, Andrews proved to be an immediate upgrade over the 2019 center group led by Ted Karras. Not only did he surrender just 10 quarterback pressures throughout the season (2 sacks, 1 hits, 8 hurries) despite playing with a new starting quarterback for the first time since Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in early 2016, he also was a major factor in the success the running game enjoyed. With him at the helm, the Patriots’ O-line was one of the best units not just on the team but in the entire league.
What is his projected role? Despite testing the unrestricted free agency waters this spring, Andrews will resume his role as the Patriots’ starting center in 2021 (and beyond). 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? Ted Karras, Andrews’ replacement as New England’s starting center in 2019, saw regular action in the game’s third phase. Andrews himself, meanwhile, 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 (including a grand total of zero last year). 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 in practice at one point in 2019, and also has played two regular season snaps at the position over 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? Even though he already appeared to be on his way out in free agency, Andrews decided to return to the Patriots on a new four-year, $18.88 million contract in March. As part of this deal he will hit the team’s salary cap with $1.75 million: Andrews will play on a fully guaranteed salary ($1 million) and signing bonus proration ($375,000), and can also earn up to $375,000 in additional bonuses. His deal is arguably the Patriots’ biggest bargain, given that he carries only the 32nd highest cap hit on the current roster.
What is his roster outlook? There is no doubt about Andrews’ roster status and role on the team heading into the 2021 season. He is a lock to make the 53-man squad and will once again serve as New England’s starting center and one of the team’s captains. The biggest question will be how he will look like with a new left guard aligning next to him: with Joe Thuney having left in free agency, second-year man Michael Onwenu is expected to take over. Onwenu looked impressive as a rookie, but his chemistry with Andrews is still in its developmental stages.