Patriots ship Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay Bucs for surprisingly small return

The New England Patriots just cleared a pile of cap space, but in exchange for … what, exactly? Because, unless Bill Belichick has a specific target at the end of the fifth round who he simply cannot live without, we have to question the particulars of this maneuver.

The Patriots dealt guard Shaq Mason to Tampa Bay, where he’ll once again protect Tom Brady and slide into the spot vacated by the recently-retired Ali Marpet.

Recently retired … huh … has a nice ring to it for about a month and change before you decide to reverse course and upend the entire NFL landscape, huh?

Mason was prepared to count $7.3 million against the Patriots’ cap this season, but instead, he’s headed to sunny Florida in exchange for that dastardly little fifth-rounder.

About 24 hours after the Pats also lost the versatile Ted Karras to the Bengals, more questions than answers remain about who, exactly, is in charge of keeping Mac Jones upright, as well as who said quarterback is throwing to.

Patriots trade Shaq Mason for fifth-round pick; rapid reaction

OK, seriously, if the Patriots don’t go with an OL with the 21st overall pick (or, fine … trade down and take one …), we’d be very shocked. Otherwise, the pressure’s firmly on Michael Onwenu’s shoulders to return to his rookie season form.

Mason was an “overpaid” option (per Belichick’s standards), but that doesn’t take away from his production.

In 2021, PFF ranked him ahead of the retiring Marpet overall, meaning TB12 got a blocking upgrade, and his former team got minimal compensation for a massive asset entering his theoretical prime (he’s just 28).

Is Isiah Wynn next on the chopping block? If so, New England had better have a plan in place, as a complete revamp looms for a recent strength up front.