The new NFL league year begins Wednesday, March 17, and with it, the advent of 2021's free agency marketplace. Leading up to that day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective. Today we check out the offensive line.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Jermaine Eluemunor, James Ferentz
OTHER NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
Trent Williams (SF), Brandon Scherff (WAS), Taylor Moton (CAR), Corey Linsey (GB), Jason Peters (PHI), Russel Okung (CAR), D.J. Fluker (BAL), Germain Ifedi (CHI), Brian Winters (BUF), Alex Mack (ATL), Matt Skura (BAL), Mike Pouncey (PIT).
Jason Spriggs (CHI), Cameron Fleming (NYG), Cameron Erving (DAL), Ted Karras (MIA).
There are some big questions for the offensive line this offseason, starting with the status of Joe Thuney and David Andrews, two players who have been among the core of the last two Super Bowl championships. Then there's the potential return of Marcus Cannon, who would still be a valuable veteran right tackle if the team is okay with his $9.6 million cap hit. Isaiah Wynn's health is also something to ponder as he enters his fourth season. With the reported addition of Trent Brown, the team has already made some early strides to shore up any potential transition that might be coming.
Shaq Mason and Michael Onwenu are two good anchors amongst all these questions, but is Onwenu headed back to his natural guard position or will he stick at right tackle? Brown's return should give the team some flexibility with Owenu. The Patriots have never been big players in the offensive line free agency market, instead choosing to develop their players internally and, in 2020, they added some good young depth in Justin Herron, who should be a good candidate at least for the swing tackle back-up role, while Yodny Cajuste is a dark horse after injuries cost him his first two seasons.
Eluemunor played a vital role in 2020, starting the season as the right tackle and finishing it at left tackle, after spending most of his NFL career at guard. In 2019, they added him along with Korey Cunningham via trade after the season got underway when injuries struck. The team would miss Eluemunor's versatility even if he's not a long-term answer.
Thuney seems destined for a monster open-market deal, but if the team can retain Andrews it will give the Patriots at least four solid pieces to start with and some interesting young depth pieces at tackle. It's the guard depth that will need to be addressed, especially in the draft. An interior swing back-up seems like a necessity and could be a spot to target in free agency.
Expect the Patriots to stick primarily with their internal development model after re-acquiring Brown, but they will likely have to tap the open market to address some interior depth.