Previously a strength of their roster, the New England Patriots’ interior offensive line has entered a rebuilding phase. After losing left guard Joe Thuney as a free agent last offseason, the team saw both his replacement — Ted Karras — and right guard Shaq Mason depart this year: Karras signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, Mason was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As a result, only center David Andrews is left standing. The rest of the interior offensive line, meanwhile, is a work in progress as a look at the current group shows:
- David Andrews: 29 | Signed through 2024
- Michael Onwenu: 24 | Signed through 2023
- James Ferentz: 32 | Signed through 2022
- William Sherman: 22 | Signed through 2024
- Arlington Hambright: 26 | Signed through 2022
- Drew Desjarlais: 24 | Signed through 2024
The only players out of these six that can be considered locks to make New England’s roster this year and see regular playing time are Andrews and projected starting right guard Michael Onwenu. The other four, meanwhile, have not proven themselves as starter-level players and will likely compete for depth roles.
The key word is “likely” because a lot of it depends on the upcoming draft. The Patriots are expected to add to their interior offensive line — heading into the season with James Ferentz as a projected starter at left guard is, to put it mildly, not ideal — and there are several suitable players available on all three days.
(Just for clarity’s sake: players are listed alphabetically within their respective groups)
N/A: The Patriots have a significant hole at one of their starting guard positions, but it will likely not be filled by trading up in the first round. While there are first-round caliber interior O-linemen available this year, none are necessarily worth trading up for.
Targets at No. 21
Kenyon Green, Texas A&M: Green possesses NFL size at 6-foot-4, 323 pounds and is quite battle-tested after starting 35 games over the course of his three-year collegiate career. While most of his starts appeared at left guard, he has played every position across the offensive line except for center. He’d be an instant starter and has all the tools to become an elite player in the future.
Zion Johnson, Boston College: The other half of the top-two prospects at the guard position alongside Kenyon Green, Johnson projects as a Day 1 starting guard at the NFL level. His size — 6-foot-3, 312 pounds — in combination with high-level movement skills and technical proficiency will lead to him hearing his name called as early as the first round. He also offers experience as an emergency tackle as well if need be. | Full draft profile
Day 2 targets
Darian Kinnard, Kentucky: Kinnard made all 39 of his college starts at the tackle position, but the 6-foot-5, 322-pounder might actually project better at guard at the pro level. His technique remains a work in progress, but he has the potential to turn into a high-quality NFL starter.
Dylan Parham, Memphis: Parham, who measured at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds at the Scouting Combine, has experience at both guard spots and right tackle. He will need to add to his frame to become a successful starter at the next level, but his movement skills and baseline athleticism make for an intriguing prospect. | Full draft profile
Sean Rhyan, UCLA: A 31-game starter at left tackle for the Bruins, Rhyan moving to the interior seems like a foregone conclusion. After all, he lacks the length to play on the outside but has the frame, power and lateral mobility to find plenty of success as a guard. Rhyan seems like a possible target for New England on Day 2 of the draft.
Jamaree Salyer, Georgia: The Patriots already have two former Bulldogs on their starting O-line — left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews — and Salyer is a realistic candidate to join them. While 22 of his 23 career starts at the college level came at tackle, he has experience at all five spots and offers the size and short-area agility to become a Day 1 starter in the NFL.
Cole Strange, Chattanooga: Strange has experience at tackle, guard and center, and looks like a plug-and-play prospect. He needs to improve his play strength, but his lateral movement at 6-foot-5, 307 pounds as well as his refined technical foundation are certainly NFL-caliber. | Full draft profile
Day 3 targets/Free agency targets
Blaise Andries, Minnesota: Andries has considerable starting experience at four out of the five offensive line spots — all but center — and has an intriguing 6-foot-6 frame. He is a developmental prospect who has to improve his play strength, but might be worth a shot as a rookie free agent.
Luke Fortner, Kentucky: Fortner offers the versatility to play all three interior positions: during his time at Kentucky, he started 20 games at right guard, 13 at center, and three at left guard. While not an elite athlete, he has the makings of a developmental option.
Chris Paul, Tulsa: At 6-foot-4, 323 pounds Paul is the prototype for a bigger modern guard. He is a free and easy mover who excels in the run game, but has to improve his pass blocking until it is up to NFL standards. Like other players on this list, he has plenty of experience playing multiple spots along the line. | Full draft profile
Jason Poe, Mercer: A former college teammate of Patriots safety Kyle Dugger at Lenoir-Rhyne before transferring to Mercer, Poe is undersized by traditional standards. That said, despite measuring just 6-foot-0, 300 pounds, he offers plenty of power and functional athleticism to move people out of the way.
Zach Tom, Wake Forest: Even though all of his 37 career starts came at either tackle or center, Tom looks destined to become a guard upon entering the NFL. He is neither the strongest nor biggest player, but he has the feet to eventually develop into a starter at the pro level.
Cordell Volson, North Dakota State: A projected late-round pick who spent most of his college career at tackle, Volson needs to work on his consistency; his pad level and hand usage are all over the place. Nonetheless, he has some tools to work with.
Nick Zakelj, Fordham: A five-year starting tackle for the Rams, Zakelj will likely move inside at the next level. He offers a combination of size and power that will allow him to make an NFL roster and potentially develop into a starting option further down the line. | Full draft profile
While both Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson would be tremendous additions to the New England offensive line and quality Day 1 starters, the Patriots have shown that they can turn lower-round offensive linemen into starters. At this point in time it therefore seems possible that they go that route again.
Regardless of what they decide to do, one thing seems like a given: the Patriots heading into the season with the present group of interior linemen will not happen. At least one if not more will be added during and after the draft.