New England has a new starting center, and it’s a name and face Patriots fans will recognize.
The Patriots are bringing back center Ted Karras on a one-year deal worth $4 million, league sources told NESN.com. New England is not retaining center David Andrews, according to a league source. The Patriots also lost starting left guard Joe Thuney in free agency to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Center was New England’s biggest remaining need after an early free-agency signing splurge that saw them add wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, offensive lineman Trent Brown, outside linebacker Matt Judon, defensive linemen Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson and defensive back Jalen Mills. Prior to re-signing Karras, the only center on the Patriots’ roster was veteran Marcus Martin, who has not played a regular-season offensive snap since 2016.
Karras, who served as New England’s starting center in 2019 when Andrews missed the season with blood clots in his lungs, signed a one-year deal to play for Miami in 2020.
His return means the Patriots’ starting offensive line now is complete with Karras, Brown, Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu and Shaq Mason. Karras will play center with Mason at right guard. It remains to be seen where Brown (left or right tackle), Wynn (left tackle, right tackle or left guard) or Onwenu (left guard or right tackle) will line up.
Here are some potential combinations:
The first option seems like the Patriots’ best bet since Wynn has spent most of his NFL career at left tackle and Brown played right tackle with the Las Vegas Raiders. Brown played left tackle at a high level for the Patriots in 2018, however, and Onwenu was a force at right tackle as a rookie in 2020. Wynn has always been undersized for an NFL left tackle but he has been a steady blind-side protector when healthy. He spent time at guard in college at Georgia and played one game at left guard in 2020 for the Patriots.
Andrews won two Super Bowls as a Patriots starting center after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Karras also won two Super Bowls with New England before spending the 2020 season in Miami.
While losing Andrews stings, Karras is a great consolation prize for the Patriots, who have the cap space to continue filling in holes along their starting offensive and defensive units. While the Patriots lost some continuity on their offensive line, it helps that they’re bringing back players with familiarity in the system with Brown and Karras.