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New Shaq Mason contract provides a baseline for a possible Michael Onwenu extension with the Patriots

The former Patriots guard has signed a new three-year deal with the Houston Texans. Onwenu will likely try to surpass it.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Former New England Patriots guard Shaq Mason will sign a new contract soon. The 29-year-old, who left the Patriots in 2022 and was traded from Tampa to the Houston Texans earlier this offseason, is finalizing a three-year, $36 million contract extension.

The deal will include $22 million in total guarantees, including a $10 million signing bonus. While the full details will paint a clearer picture, the numbers initially reported by KPRC 2’s Aaron Wilson would make Mason the fifth-highest-paid right guard in the NFL on the basis of his $12 million per-year average.

What does this have to do with the Patriots, though? Their own right guard — and Mason’s replacement — is up for a new contract as well.

Michael Onwenu is not quite in the same position as Mason. For starters, Mason will turn 30 in August while Onwenu will not turn 26 until December. And even though the ex-Patriot is a more accomplished player compared to his former teammate, the difference in age and recent performance will tip the monetary scales toward the youngster.

In fact, it is therefore safe to assume that the Mason deal with the Texans will be a baseline of sorts for a possible extension between the Patriots and Onwenu: he will be aiming at an annual value higher than Mason’s $12 million, thus becoming one of the league’s best-paid guards in his own right.

The Patriots should have the financial means to make it happen. Their 2024 salary cap space can only be projected at this point in time, but they are likely to have the resources to keep Onwenu in the fold — something they probably would want to do before the start of the 2023 regular season (thus following the blueprint of their own five-year extension with Shaq Mason in August 2018).

If so, the following projection by salary cap expert Miguel Benzan appears to be a reasonable middle ground:

Miguel Benzan/@patscap

That projection would make Onwenu one of the top-compensated guards in the NFL, surpassing Mason’s deal in length as well as total and annual value. It simultaneously would give the Patriots a good financial structure to work with, with the salary cap hits the first two years (2023 and 2024) still comparatively low.

All that being said, the team does appear to have a contingency plan in mind as well. New England, after all, selected three players on the third day of the draft capable of playing the right guard position as well: fourth-rounders Jake Andrews and Sidy Sow, and fifth-rounder Atonio Mafi, all have experience.

If no Onwenu extension materializes at one point over the next 10 months, the team would likely turn to one of those three players to take over. However, the best-case outcome for both sides would likely still be an extension — Onwenu is one of the best young guards in football, and having him around should help the team’s quest at finding a long-term solution at right tackle.

What can be said with some confidence, though, is this: Onwenu’s new contract will be more expensive than the baseline one Shaq Mason is expected to sign with the Texans; he will earn more than $12 million per year whether from the Patriots or another team.