At least one spot on the Patriots’ offensive line will look different in 2022. Guard Ted Karras won’t be returning to New England after signing a three-year, $18 million dollar with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday. The move was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Karras, who returned to New England last year for a second stint after a year in Miami, gets the first long-term deal of his career and should play a starting role in Cincinnati. The defending AFC champion Bengals were expected to be big players in the offensive line market this offseason after struggling to protect quarterback Joe Burrow. Karras is the second guard of the day to sign with them, after former Bucs guard Alex Cappa.
The Patriots were reportedly in on Karras throughout the process, but ultimately couldn’t match his number. According to Jeff Howe of the Athletic, they originally offered three years at $15 million, before lowing that offer to $13 million.
Losing Karras means the Patriots will have at least one hole to fill on their offensive line. The 28-year-old played in all 17 games for the team last year, starting the final 13 at left guard.
Luckily for the Patriots, they have an obvious in-house candidate for the job in Michael Onwenu if that's the direction they choose to go. Onwenu ended up as the sixth offensive linemen down the stretch in 2021, but started at guard early in the season.
However, it may not be entirely that simple. Trent Brown - who started at right tackle when healthy in 2021 - is also a pending free agent. If he ends up leaving, the Patriots would have two holes to fill up front. Onwenu played most of his rookie season in 2020 at right tackle, so he realistically could play at either spot. It would come down to where the Patriots feel he's more valuable. Could the team pushing to keep Karras be a sign they plan to move Onwenu back to tackle? We likely won't get a clear answer to that question until OTAs at the earliest.
Whatever happens with Brown and Onwenu, the Patriots still should be in the market for at least one offensive lineman this spring either in free agency or the draft. In addition to losing Karras and potentially Brown, starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Unless the Patriots are planning to extend him, they'll be replacing yet another starting lineman in 2023.
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