Bill Belichick had no choice this time around. He had to give New England Patriots fans a sneak peek into the future.
The deadline for teams to make a decision on their players’ fifth-year contract options was on Monday, and the Pats needed to figure out what they were going to do with offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel.
Every first-round pick gets a guaranteed four-year contract and then carries a fifth-year team option, typically at a much higher AAV.
You could argue it disadvantages the players, but it mostly helps out everyone.
In the Patriots’ case, it was a little bit of both.
Wynn will remain with the team through 2022 and will make $10.4 million that season while Michel will become a free agent after 2021.
What decision did the Patriots just make on Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn?
The case of Michel is a bit simpler here, so we’ll dive into that one first.
Injuries have limited the former Georgia Bulldog after a sensational rookie campaign, and ever since, the Patriots have given Damien Harris the RB1 job as well as drafted another potential viable option in Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson.
Throw in the fact that Belichick isn’t paying premium money to a running back, and the writing has been on the wall for quite a while. Michel, who was the No. 31 overall pick in 2018, would’ve been set to earn $4.53 million in 2022.
Now, we have a clearer view of the backfield after this year, with Harris likely remaining the starter with Stevenson hopefully right behind him.
As for Wynn, many fans were unsure if the Pats would exercise his fifth-year option given the endless injury concerns of his own. He’s played in just 18 career games since the start of his career in 2018, so it was assumed there was a chance Belichick wouldn’t waste a penny on an injury-prone player like that.
However, Wynn has played the part of a potential future left tackle in those 18 games, which likely convinced the franchise he’s worth that annual salary in 2022 … and we’d have to agree. You truly cannot put a price tag on premier protection from your left tackle.
Another factor here was that Trent Brown is only signed through 2021. Though he’ll play right tackle next season, he can play on the left side, which presumably would’ve given the Patriots more flexibility had he signed an extension after coming over in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason.
The Pats also went heavy on defense in this draft and took their supposed quarterback of the future in Mac Jones, so it was evident they’d almost have to give Wynn another shot after this season. All they’ll have to hope for is a clean bill of health the next two seasons and they could have their left tackle of the future.