New England Patriots Rumors: Is Shaq Mason going to be a cap casualty?

Shaq Mason #69 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Shaq Mason #69 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have a lot of work to do this offseason. Fresh off a playoff campaign in 2021, the team is going to need to put together a strong offseason if they want to continue to build off that positive momentum.

However, that’s going to be easier said than done. New England was largely able to build their way back to being a playoff contender last offseason with ample salary cap space and a solid draft class. While drafting another top tier class certainly isn’t out of the picture, it’s clear that the Pats are not going to be as active as they were in free agency a year ago.

The Patriots worked an advantageous market in their favor and went on a spending spree unlike one we have ever seen here in New England. However, that has put a bit of a damper on their salary cap situation for this offseason. The Pats only have around $7 million in cap space currently, which is enough to re-sign maybe one or two players. It’s clear they will need more money if they want to accomplish much of anything this offseason.

The good news is that the New England Patriots have some easy moves that can be made to free up some cap space, but there are going to be some tough cap casualties along the way. As outrageous as it may sound off the bat, one of those casualties could be star offensive lineman Shaq Mason. Mason has become one of the top guards in the league, but this offseason may be the perfect time to move on from Mason in order to better other areas of the team.

Would the New England Patriots really consider moving on from Shaq Mason?

Off the bat, this suggestion may sound ridiculous, and rightfully so. Mason has been a pillar of the Patriots offensive lines for the past seven seasons, and he has become arguably the best player on an extremely talented o-line during that time. Mason holds up well in pass protection and helps create some gaping holes for the running game to burst through.

But the New England Patriots need money this offseason, and moving on from Mason (by either releasing or trading him) would free up over $7 million in cap space, which would obviously be a huge help. Releasing low level guys like Henry Anderson and N’Keal Harry is only going to create so much space. Moving big salaries like Mason’s is what’s really going to free up the salary cap.

If Mason is playing at a high level though, what’s the sense of moving on from him? For starters, they might have their replacement for him on the roster already in Michael Onwenu. Onwenu, a 2020 sixth round draft pick, has been a revelation during his first two seasons, and while he can play all over the line, it’s clear his most natural position is right guard, which just so happens to be Mason’s position. Moving Mason could open up a consistent starting role for Onwenu.

The $7 million in cap space may not seem like much either, but that could be huge in helping work out a deal with J.C. Jackson. Jackson is probably looking at a franchise tag designation right now, and working on a long-term deal with him has to be one of the top priorities of the offseason. Jackson has made it clear he wants to get paid, but right now the Patriots don’t have the funds necessary to make a competent deal for him.

Of course, there would be a huge amount of risk associated with moving on from Mason. It goes without saying that New England is not going to be releasing Mason anytime soon, and the only way this happens is if a team decides to pony up and offer a solid return for him. Despite New England’s tight salary cap, there’s really no urgency to move on from Mason unless there’s a quality player or high draft pick coming back in return.

The other issue that exists is the amount of question marks on the New England Patriots offense live. On the surface, it doesn’t look like a huge issue, but depending on what Trent Brown and Ted Karras decide to do in free agency, it could quickly become an issue. Holding onto Mason gives your o-line consistency, regardless of what those two decide to do.

Even if Brown and Karras leave, the offensive line would still have Mason, Onwenu, David Andrews, and Isaiah Wynn. Moving Mason and losing both Brown and Karras would be truly catastrophic, and you can’t really run the risk of having that happen. Mason is a crucial piece of this offensive line, and there’s no sense in trading him unless you know you will have all your bases covered without him.

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Mason still has two team friendly years left on his deal, and while trading him would help ease the salary cap burden, there’s no sense of urgency to get him off the books. Maybe the team could broach a possible contract restructure, but moving on from one of the team’s best players, who just so happens to be in the prime of his career, isn’t a wise move. Unless a groundbreaking deal comes across the table, expect Mason to be on the field protecting Mac Jones again next season.