Nineteen New England Patriots players are set to hit free agency when the NFL league year opens March 18. As that date approaches, we’re taking a closer look at each one.
Up next: center/guard Ted Karras.
2019 STATS: 1,040 offensive snaps (90.5 percent) in 15 games (all starts); 66.5 Pro Football Focus grade (20th among centers)
LIKELIHOOD OF RETURN: Low
ANALYSIS: Karras won’t break the bank the way fellow 2016 Patriots draftee Joe Thuney will later this month, but he should have a strong market as one of the top free agent centers available.
After three seasons as New England’s primary interior offensive line backup, Karras was thrust into the starting lineup when blood clots landed David Andrews on season-ending injured reserve last August. He wound up starting all but one game during the 2019 campaign — he sat out Week 14 with a knee injury — and played well in Andrews’ stead, allowing two sacks and 14 total pressures in 658 pass-blocking snaps, per PFF.
Karras’ PFF grade this season was the fourth-highest among impending free agent centers, trailing only Denver’s Conor McGovern (71.9), San Francisco’s Ben Garland (71.6) and Baltimore’s Matt Skura (68.7). His relative youth (turns 27 next week) and positional versatility (can play all three iOL spots) will make him an attractive candidate for teams in need of O-line help.
During an appearance last week on “NESN After Hours,” Karras said it’s “tough to tell” whether he’ll re-sign with the Patriots. We believe the chances of that happening are slim.
“It’s a business,” Karras said. “I’m sure we’ll have some good conversations with Coach (Bill) Belichick and Nick Caserio, but it’s going to probably just come down to a business decision.”
With Thuney (a second-team All-Pro and the top guard on the market) and Karras both headed for free agency and Andrews’ playing status for 2020 not yet confirmed, the Patriots will have some holes up front to fill this offseason.
The top internal option to fill Thuney’s left guard spot is Hjalte Froholdt, the 2019 fourth-round draft pick who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Froholdt looked raw in training camp and the preseason last summer but impressed folks inside the organization with his work behind the scenes.
It would not be surprising to see the Patriots use a 2020 draft pick on an interior O-lineman. They also need to replenish their offensive tackle depth, which was lacking in 2019.