Following Ted Karras’ free agency departure and the trade that sent fellow starting guard Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay, the New England Patriots are left with plenty of questions along their offensive line. What we do know, however, is that they are not trying to answer them by recklessly throwing money around.
Quite the opposite, actually.
With Karras and Mason no longer part of the equation, and with no pricey veterans brought aboard through free agency or trade this offseason, the Patriots are now near the bottom of the league in cash spending along the offensive line. While that sounds like a problem especially with protecting second-year quarterback Mac Jones paramount, they actually are projected to be among the best teams in the NFL this season up front.
A recent analysis conducted by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic has the unit ranked seventh in predicted EPA based on pass protection (and second in the AFC behind only the sixth-ranked Denver Broncos). Adding the aforementioned monetary investments to the equation shows that the Patriots are getting some very good bang for their buck:
The Patriots ranking dead-last in the league in total average contract value along the offensive line should not come as a surprise. After all, their projected starting five features three players on rookie contracts plus two veterans on cost-effective deals. The depth options behind them are all of the cheap variety as well, with none of them exceeding a salary cap hit of $1.03 million this year.
The starters, meanwhile, are hitting New England’s books with a combined cap number of just $24.51 million in 2022:
LT Isaiah Wynn: $10.41 million
LG Cole Strange: $2.23 million
C David Andrews: $6.38 million
RG Michael Onwenu: $0.95 million
RT Trent Brown: $4.54 million
Even with the current 11 backup players added to the equation, the total cap space allocated to the offensive line is only $32.65 million.
For comparison, their projected starters alone combine to hit the Philadelphia Eagles’ books with $37.8 million this season. The Eagles, of course, are located in the top-right corner in the graphic above: they are predicted to get the best production out of their O-line but are definitely paying for it.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are trying to maximize the resources they are investing.
They are also banking on the development of their young guard duo: Michael Onwenu spent a significant portion of the 2022 season on the bench, while Cole Strange was just added in the first round of the draft. If they can exceed expectations — which is less than certain in Strange’s case — the unit might climb up the rankings. In the meantime, it will still stay cheap.