A sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2016, Karras started his career as a versatile backup along the interior. In 2019, however, he took over at starting center when David Andrews was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. His performance earned him a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins; after that year, Karras returned to New England — spending most of 2021 as the team’s starting left guard.
Now, the 28-year-old is taking his talents to the Super Bowl runner-ups. Let’s find out what this means from a Patriots perspective.
New England needs a new left guard
For the second year in a row, the Patriots need to find a new starter at the left guard position. Last year, they lost Joe Thuney to Kansas City; this year, they have to replace Karras after he joined the Bengals.
Luckily for New England, a realistic replacement candidate is already on the roster: third-year man Michael Onwenu actually started the 2021 season as the top option at left guard. He later moved to right tackle to replace an injured Trent Brown, and eventually was moved to the bench upon Brown’s return and Karras having hit his stride at left guard.
With Karras gone, the door appears to be open for Onwenu to resume the role he held for the first four games last year.
The Patriots possibly misplayed the market
The Patriots reportedly offered Karras a three-year, $15 million contract before the Scouting Combine, with Bill Belichick himself doing some recruiting. However, they eventually lowered the offer to three years and $13 million.
Why did they do that? Maybe they misinterpreted Karras’ market, thinking that he would not get as robust an offer elsewhere. Turns out he did, and the Patriots are now in need of a new starter at the left guard position.
Karras will impact the compensatory draft picks formula
A team’s free agency gains and losses are all counted towards the NFL’s compensatory draft picks formula. The what? In basic terms, it’s a compensation system for teams losing more of its own free agents than it signs from the outside.
New England stands at a net minus of one: Karras is the first and only free agent to leave thus far, while the team has not brought any players on board yet.
According to Over the Cap, the Patriots would currently gain a sixth-round selection for the departure. That said, a lot will happen between now and the NFL making those extra picks official in 2023.
The focus shifts to Trent Brown
With one starter along the offensive line having left the Patriots, the focus now shifts to the second who is set to enter free agency this week: right tackle Trent Brown is also in need of a new deal, and therefore no lock to stay in New England.
With him not under contract beyond Wednesday, the team’s currently projected starting O-line therefore looks as follows:
- Left tackle: Isaiah Wynn
- Left guard: Michael Onwenu
- Center: David Andrews
- Right guard: Shaq Mason
- Right tackle Justin Herron
Like Karras, Brown rejoined the Patriots last offseason on a one-year deal (albeit under slightly different circumstances). Both men were able to carve out starting gigs, and there is a chance that the two of them need to be replaced again just 12 months later.