New England Patriots: Predicting who stays and goes on offense
By Luke O'Brien
60 – David Andrews – Staying
Could the Patriots do better than Andrews in Free Agency or the draft? Probably. Will they instead keep the over-achieving center on his low cap number? Most definitely. Andrews only signed a new deal last offseason and only stands to count $1.65m to the cap this year. Bill Belichick has built the Patriots around guys like David Andrews – undrafted free agents that show promise, who then sign a team-friendly contract and play their best years on said contract before being let go.
61 – Marcus Cannon – Staying
Cannon has really kicked on to show his pre-draft promise into his late twenties. With Cannon and Shaq Mason, the right side of the offensive line is probably the strongest side at the moment. His cap hit this year is $5.8m, but that is a fair price to pay for a player that has probably been the most solid on the line over the last two seasons.
62 – Joe Thuney – Staying
The former 3rd round pick is entering his third season with the Patriots still on his team-friendly rookie deal. All things being equal, you would expect the Patriots to attempt to replace Thuney as he has been the consensus weakest member of their line. That would then mean paying someone more money or drafting somebody highly in order to replace him. While Thuney has not been great, he is by no means a “swinging gate”. Dealing with Nate Solder’s situation will probably be the Patriots offensive line priority. If they can pick up a low round draft pick or a low money veteran Thuney might lose his starting role.
63 – Antonio Garcia – Staying
After spending his first season on NFI, Garcia’s 2018 status is unknown. Nobody from outside the organisation really seems to know what exactly Garcia’s issue is. Whether he remains on NFI again this year or is back on the roster the Patriots will want to take a look at their 2017 3rd round pick.
68 – LaAdrian Waddle – Going
If Waddle weren’t so large (6ft 6”– 315lbs) he would be the Patriots’ plucky underdog. He spent nearly all of 2016 inactive and only played one snap. He was active more in 2017 and played well when called upon against some of the best pass-rushers in the business. Later in the year he spent time alternating with Cameron Fleming. Waddle will most likely point to his midseason tape and look for a place where he can fight for a starting job or at least get paid a bit more.
69 – Shaq Mason – Staying
The former 4th round pick has been a steal for the Patriots. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Mason could be re-signed to a deal this offseason, a deal he would richly deserve. Mason has generally flown under the radar league-wide with regards to his production and the Patriots would be smart to tie him down early.
71 – Cameron Fleming – Staying
Cam Fleming has turned himself around in New England. Ever since being cut in 2015, he has become a dependable backup for the Patriots. He may never be a starting caliber talent but he doesn’t have to be. If the Patriots offer him a deal similar per year to the one he was on this season I think he would take it. Fleming could be a dark horse to be the next player re-signed this offseason after Bolden.
74 – Cole Croston – Staying
Croston fulfilled the role of perpetual healthy scratch this season. The fact that Croston stayed on the roster all season whilst providing cover in the interior can only be a positive for him. Another positive for Croston is that he made the 53-man roster over 6th round pick (albeit at the Tackle position) Conor McDermott. With two years left on his deal and no salary cap implications worth talking about, Croston will be in line to make the roster again in 2018.
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75 – Ted Karras – Staying
Ted Karras is the active roster version of Cole Croston. A 6th round pick in 2016, Karras has been a capable backup and has primarily played at Centre when called upon but he can also play Guard. As mentioned previously, Karras is ahead of Croston in the pecking order and is likely to continue in this role this season. The only thing that could affect his roster position is if the Patriots bring in somebody to replace Joe Thuney. The domino effect could have a negative impact on Karras.
76 – Andrew Jelks – Staying
The Patriots’ Mr. Anonymous last season – Jelks was part of the undrafted free agent group this season but after spending the whole season on NFI we never got to see the former SEC coaches’ all-freshman team member. 2017 marked the third season in a row that Jelks had missed a season of football having missed his last two years of college eligibility due to back-to-back ACL injuries. The good news for Jelks is that an ACL injury is no longer career-ending and also Offensive Linemen have been known to play through these injuries (see Mankins, Logan) so the recovery period he had this offseason should stand to him. He is under contract for another two seasons at very low cap numbers so it won’t hurt the Patriots to take a look at him in camp.
77 – Nate Solder – Staying
Solder is probably the most important free agent that the Patriots have this season but I think he will stay, and here is why. Solder has been a solid left tackle during his time in New England. At times he has frustrated fans and coaches alike but his detractors who want the Patriots to move on, should look at what the alternatives would be. The talent at left tackle in the free agent market is poor to say the least. If last season is anything to go by, we saw some very average tackles getting a lot of money.
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Solder’s last contract was a 2-year $20m deal and I think something like a 3-year $40m deal could keep Solder in his adopted home. With the health situation affecting Nate Solder’s son, he could take a hometown discount to stay close to the best hospitals and his family. The Patriots would be crazy to let him walk out the door without sitting down and talking numbers. I think both sides can come to an agreement that will leave both parties happy.
64 – James Ferentz
72 – Jason King