Despite being one of the team’s biggest strengths in their Super Bowl LIII title run, change is likely coming to the New England Patriots’ offensive line in 2019.
They did draft offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn 23rd overall for a reason, after all.
Left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon especially jelled in the postseason as they created rushing lanes for running back Sony Michel and protected quarterback Tom Brady against some of the NFL’s best pass-rushing tandems.
But Wynn, who didn’t play a single snap last season after tearing his Achilles in the preseason, likely will be joining the starting group in 2019. It would be a waste to keep him on the bench. The Patriots essentially must choose between the 25-year-old Brown and 30-year-old Cannon.
Brown is a free agent, while Cannon has three years left on his contract, and his deal is a bargain with a cap hit of just $7,456,250. However, the Patriots would save over $4.6 million by cutting or trading him.
Brown is considered one of the best free-agent tackles on the market, and he could wind up breaking the bank. He had a very solid 2018 season in New England, and former Patriots starting left tackle Nate Solder commanded a four-year, $62 million contract in free agency last March. Brown is five years younger than Solder but is less of a proven commodity. It’s difficult to predict just how much another team would be willing to pay Brown, but given the Patriots’ options at the position, it seems unlikely they would get into a bidding war to keep him.
If he’s valued at just a few million over Cannon, then that’s another story. It might be worth paying a little extra and re-signing the younger player to plan for the future. But Brown could wind up being paid twice as much as Cannon. And at that point, it’s worth keeping Cannon around for a few more years and making Wynn their starting left tackle of the future.
Brown has had weight issues in the past that he kept at bay in New England. There’s no guarantee that will continue with guaranteed money in his pocket.
The problem with keeping Cannon and losing Brown is that the Patriots are back where they started and likely need to draft another offensive tackle in the near future to one day replace Cannon.
Regardless of how the Patriots decide to move forward with their offensive tackles, they should be in good shape moving forward as long as offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia can coach up Wynn to play to his potential. And that never seems to be a problem with Scarnecchia.
Thuney is signed through 2019, while Andrews will be around through 2020, and Mason is locked up through 2023. The Patriots’ interior offensive line is set for at least one more season. But there are questions in 2019 at the tackle position.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images