Patriots Criticized For Not Finding ‘a Way to Keep’ Valuable Veteran

Shaq Mason

Getty Shaq Mason, formerly of the New England Patriots.

The New England Patriots were in a position that necessitated some salary-cap-preserving deals after they spent $159.6 million on free agents in 2021.

Perhaps the most painful of those deals was the trade that sent Shaq Mason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 2022 sixth-round pick. Mason had played each of his seven seasons in the NFL with the Patriots, and he played a major role on two Super Bowl championship teams.

Mason is still considered one of the better guards in the NFL, per Pro Football Network’s Matt Williamson, but to New England he was expendable. The Patriots had Mike Onwenu, who played a utility role in 2021. The Patriots also had plans to address their offensive line in the NFL Draft in April, where they selected Tennessee-Chattanooga guard Cole Strange in the first round.

While New England projects to start Strange and Onwenu at guard on a bit of a new-look offensive line in 2022, there are some who still find fault in the Patriots parting ways with Mason.

ESPN’s Bill Barnell says he wishes the Patriots had “found a way to keep” Mason on the roster.

“The Pats’ hands were tied by what they did last offseason, but I would have liked to see them find a way to keep Mason,” Barnwell wrote. “Even if New England thinks Strange will emerge as a superstar, retaining Mason would have allowed the team to keep Mike Onwenu in a utility role, which is extremely important given how frequently Brown and fellow tackle Isaiah Wynn have been injured over the past few seasons.”

If Strange develops quickly and Onwenu picks up where he left off in 2020 when he was among the league’s best rookies, the Patriots won’t miss Mason at guard. However, if starting tackles Trent Brown or Isaiah Wynn are injured–as both have been multiple times during their careers–New England will miss the depth they might have enjoyed if they’d held onto Mason.

Other Patriots News: Mac Jones is in ‘the Best Shape of His Life’

If Mac Jones experiences a sophomore slump in 2022, chances are it won’t be due to a lack physical conditioning. According to Jones’ teammate and Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, Jones is in the “best shape of his life.

You can see a bit of Jones’ more slender frame in this workout video he posted on his Instagram account.

New England hopes their retooled offensive line can adequately protect Jones so that he can show off a bit more as a passer in 2022 than he showed in 2021.

Other Patriots News: Patriots’ Unproven Linebacker Thinks His Time is Now

An argument could be made that the Patriots’ linebacker group has more questions than the offensive line. If New England’s O-line stays healthy, the unit will be strong and the running game will again be the most dangerous aspect of their offense.

In contrast, the 2022 season feels like a transitional year at several positions on defense. The Patriots’ linebackers could be healthy, and there could still be an issue on that level of the defense.

Cameron McGrone was selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he didn’t play last year as a rookie. However, his athleticism and approach has drawn rave reviews from his coaches. Patriots assistant Steve Belichick talked up McGrone’s performance at OTAs earlier in the week, per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal via Yahoo! Sports.

“It was exciting to have him on the field last year for those couple of weeks,” said Steve Belichick. “One thing I noticed — all the other guys on the field had been playing football for months and he had been coming off a year of not playing football. But he didn’t look, in any sort of way, out of place on the field. I thought that was impressive.”

If McGrone can make an impact on defense in his first year on the field, it’ll provide the Patriots a strong presence at a vital position while some of the veteran defenders are getting up there in years.

Stay tuned for what could be a strong year for McGrone.

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