With the offseason workout program in the rear-view mirror and training camp set to kick off later this month, the New England Patriots are fully “on to 2022.”
The team currently has 84 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early 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 men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots build on their 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with veteran center David Andrews.
Name: David Andrews
Jersey number: 60
Opening day age: 30
Size: 6-foot-3, 300 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)
What is his experience? Andrews originally arrived in the league as an undrafted free agent pickup 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, all while proving his potential as an NFL-caliber lineman. The following offseason, 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 has started xx of a possible xx regular season contests since earning the center job as well as 10 playoff games — including the Patriots’ Super Bowl victories against the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams to cap his 2016 and 2018 campaigns.
Andrews has been a core member of New England’s offense for the last six years, both due to his performances and his leadership Voted a captain by his teammates in four of the last five years, he established himself as an important voice 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. Andrews has bounced back strongly from his one-year break and continues to be a valuable member of the Patriots’ operation.
What did his 2021 season look like? Andrews’ comeback season after the aforementioned blood clot diagnosis was a successful one, and it set him up well for his first ever trip to unrestricted free agency in March 2021. One of the better and most experienced linemen available, it appeared that his tenure in New England might indeed come to an end: Andrews was rumored to be joining the Miami Dolphins, but he eventually returned to the Patriots via a new four-year, $19 million contract.
The deal kept the cornerstone of New England’s offensive line in place, and allowed the team to keep some stability within an offense that would soon be handed over to rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Despite the youngster’s lack of experience after he won his position battle versus incumbent Cam Newton, he worked well together with Andrews: Jones delivered one of the most impressive rookie quarterback seasons in recent memory, while Andrews an the offensive line again performed on a generally high level.
That does not mean the unit and its leader did not experience some hardships along the way; at one point — in Week 5 versus the Houston Texans — Andrews was the only starter available and had to line up with four backups alongside him. Nonetheless, the veteran continued to be his usual steady self both in that game and in others during the season; he was the anchor of the offensive line not just because he was voted a captain yet again. Andrews also was arguably the most reliable O-lineman on New England’s roster.
All in all, he ended up appearing in all 17 of the team’s regular season games plus its playoff loss in Buffalo. 2021 was therefore just the third year of Andrews’ career that saw him appear in every game possible. His durability was impressive and he ended the season as New England’s leader in total snaps: he was on the field for 1,154 of them, resulting in an offensive playing time share of 98.7 percent. No other player on the roster on offense or defense saw a bigger workload than the 30-year-old.
When on the field, which was virtually all the time, Andrews again performed at a consistently high level as both a run blocker and pass protector. The numbers reflect this: not only was he credited with only 18 quarterback disruptions given up, including one sack, he also allowed the Patriots to create some consistent movement when running through the A-gaps on his left and right shoulder. In total, New England ran through them 112 times for 499 yards — a 4.5-yard average per carry — and four touchdowns.
What is his projected role? Andrews’ role in 2022 will look the same it has ever since his permanent elevation to the starting lineup six years ago: he will be New England’s starting center. 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 and the line calls up front: Andrews plays a vital role in setting protections and blocks, and communicating with his fellow linemen. Additionally, he will serve as a captain once again.
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 a bit of 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 a solitary snap during his rookie campaign.
What is his special teams value? Andrews’ special teams value is limited at best. 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 the last two years in a row). If the coaching staff does opt to use him on special teams, Andrews will play exclusively as a blocker on the field goal and extra point kicking units. Based on his recent lack of kicking game snaps, however, no such usage should be expected in 2022.
What is his salary cap situation? As noted above, Andrews signed a four-year contract extension with the Patriots in March 2021. This deal was slightly altered as part of a restructure earlier this offseason, but it still remains a team-friendly one especially in 2022: the long-time starter carries a salary cap hit of just $4.28 million, which ranks ninth among all NFL centers. He will be playing on a fully-guaranteed salary ($1.1 million) and signing bonus proration ($1.93 million) as well as a combined $1.25 million worth of likely-to-be-earned roster bonuses.
How safe is his roster spot? Even though he currently find himself on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Andrews falls firmly into the “roster lock” category entering his eighth season in the league. He is one of the best and most reliable member of New England’s offense, a leader on and off the field, and a vital part of an offensive line that has seen some massive changes this offseason through the departures of both starting guards, Ted Karras and Shaq Mason. With those two gone, Andrews will help get their replacements — rookie Cole Strange and third-year man Michael Onwenu — ready.
One-sentence projection: Andrews will again start every game at center and despite the changes around him deliver yet another quality performance.