New England Patriots fans went into this offseason knowing that Shaq Mason could be traded. Given the fact that he was due $8 million in each of the next two seasons, Bill Belichick was prepared to pinch pennies in order to find a cheaper alternative. That mindset helped Mason end up on a contender in the NFC.
Mason, who was named a second-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus and has started 98 games in the last seven years, has now reunited with Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All Jason Licht had to give up to acquire him was a fifth-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.
Belichick has allowed impact free agents like JC Jackson to leave, too. The lack of progress in the offseason has to have frustrated the fanbase, and Belichick’s response to some of the criticism coming his way might not satisfy many.
Belichick claims that the Mason trade was “in the best interest of the team” while citing the “competition” that’s currently on the roster as the main reason that the Georgia Tech alum was considered expendable. Sorry, Bill, you’re going to need more of a concrete explanation than that.
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots gave away Shaq Mason … but why?
Mason might not be an All-Pro every single year, but you don’t start at the same position for seven consecutive seasons under Belichick without doing something right. The odds of finding a fifth-round pick in the draft that provides adequate value when compared to Mason over the next two years is slim.
The Patriots could use one of their Day 2 picks on an interior lineman, though the idea of promoting Michael Onwenu back to a full-time starting role clearly appealed to Belichick. That might be sufficient, but to just flip Mason for such paltry compensation feels like a missed opportunity.
This was supposed to be another aggressive offseason. Mac Jones needs more support around him given the way that the rest of the AFC has improved. Instead, Belichick has made his offensive line much worse by trading Mason and allowing Ted Karras to join the Bengals.
The Patriots have enough financial wiggle room to sign players, but it looks like Belichick is perfectly happy with ditching established starters for rookies on their first cheap contract. This has the potential to blow up in his face, and Belichick won’t be able to blame anyone but himself if it does.