The start of the new league year officially kicks off at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, but the aftermath of the so-called legal tampering period did little to generate excitement around New England. Aside from maintaining a handful of veterans for leadership roles, the Patriots were quiet.
That is with the exception of a trade that was reported Tuesday afternoon, one that wasn't exactly embraced by the fans either. Shaq Mason, a second-team All-Pro guard in 2021 and the Patriots best and most talented offensive lineman, was sent to Tamp Bay in exchange for a fifth-round pick.
On the surface it was a horrible deal. Mason, a former fourth-round pick who blossomed into one of the best guards in football in New England and emerged as a steady forced next to David Andrews, was one of the team's best players a year ago. To get just a fifth-round pick in return seemed well below his value to the team.
However, a closer look shows Mason's contract was a bit cumbersome and now the Patriots will pick up roughly $6.3 million in cap space. They also will have $3.15 million of dead money to deal with, but according to @Patscap guru Miguel Benzan the move leaves New England with about $13 million in available cap space.
Not only does the team gain some cap space but more importantly Mason's money will now come from the Bucs, giving the Patriots more flexibility a year after Robert Kraft handed out about $175 million in free agent dollars.
What does it all mean?
No one knows for sure, but logic would dictate the Patriots are creating room to make a move or two. Reports have linked them to players such as wide receiver Robby Anderson and tackle La'el Collins, both of whom are under contract and make good money. Mason's departure would allow for a move of that ilk to be made.
The team still has significant holes to fill – some like the offensive line are bigger today than they were heading into the offseason. Ted Karras and Mason are gone and right tackle Trent Brown remains unsigned. That's potentially three spots on the offensive line that will change. Plugging in rookies will save money but will unlikely replace the production of their predecessors.
Still, with the additional flexibility it's reasonable to expect Bill Belichick isn't done making moves. The question is, will they be enough to keep the team in the playoff mix?