New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Bill Belichick wouldn’t confirm the reports of Shaq Mason’s five-year extension with the New England Patriots. But the head coach certainly had high praise for the right guard, who will now be a cornerstone of the offensive line through as long as 2023.

Mason’s extension, which makes him the seventh-highest paid guard in the NFL in terms of average annual value, was reported just minutes before Belichick took the podium in Foxboro. As you may expect, he wasn’t going to address the contract before the team officially announced it. Or maybe ever. But obviously, Belichick loves what Mason has brought to the team since being drafted in the fourth round in 2015.

“Shaq’s done a good job for us from the time he got here,” Belichick said. “He came from an offense that was quite different from ours [at Georgia Tech] and he adapted quickly and did a real good job of learning new techniques. He’s an athletic player that has good strength, good balance, an excellent run blocker, can pull, run and hit.

“He’s gotten better each year and he’s done a good job for us. He and Joe [Thuney] and David [Andrews] – those three guys have played a lot of football together and they’re young. Hopefully they can continue to play a lot for us in there.”

Jan 21, 2018, Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots guard Shaq Mason against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium. (Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots could bring back the same five starters on the offensive line next season, with 60 percent of it locked up beyond 2019. Mason is signed through 2023, right tackle Marcus Cannon through 2021, center David Andrews through 2020, and left guard Joe Thuney through 2019. Rookie Isaiah Wynn, also signed through 2021, should be able to return in time for training camp with an opportunity to start at left tackle in 2019. He’ll likely be first in line for that spot if Trent Brown departs as a free agent.

With one big financial decision off his plate, Belichick could now turn toward defensive end Trey Flowers, who is also entering the final year of his contract. But it’s clear how much he loves Mason. And despite a short-term question mark at left tackle, he appears to have the Patriots offensive line in great position to maintain continuity for whatever remains of Tom Brady’s career.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.