Patriots right guard Shaq Mason has the most invested in him at this point amongst the five starting offensive linemen — and by a sizable margin, too.
Quick, take a guess: Who do the New England Patriots have the most money committed to on their current roster in terms of total salary?
If you answered Stephon Gilmore, congratulations — you’re correct! The Patriots signed Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million contract back in spring of 2017 that will take the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year through the 2021 season.
Alright, now take another guess: Who do the New England Patriots have the second-most money committed to on their current roster in terms of total salary?
(Hint, hint: You’re reading an article about him now!)
That’s right: The Pats are paying Shaq Mason $45 million over five years to be their centerpiece along the offensive line.
It’s an interesting situation from a financial perspective — especially this year because of Joe Thuney’s franchise tag standing. Many analysts and fans alike have openly wondered if perhaps New England paid the wrong guard.
That’s not to say that Mason isn’t deserving of his contract — he absolutely is. Although he’s given up a few notable sacks and penalties over the years, he’s largely been rock-solid since taking over as the starting right guard in 2016.
The “problem” is that Thuney has also been rock-solid. Thuney was drafted a year after Mason, but Mason is a year younger. Mason might have impressed earlier in his pro career than Thuney, but Thuney has impressed later. Mason has been solid and mostly healthy throughout his NFL journey, but Thuney hasn’t missed a game yet since he was drafted.
This isn’t meant to be a side-by-side comparison to see who’s the better guard. In a perfect world, the Patriots hold onto both and have the best guard tandem in the league. That’s likely what happens in 2020 unless New England ends up trading Thuney before the season starts … but the situation feels precarious nonetheless.
Again, this is all financial. Thuney’s due to make nearly $15 million this season if he plays under the tag. Mason is making $9 million. From a dollars-and-cents standpoint, $24 million is an awful lot of dough to commit to two linemen — neither one of which plays tackle.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
In a best-case scenario, Mason’s play makes us all forget about the economic crunch he and Thuney may have inadvertently helped create for the Patriots. If Mason maintains his elite form from the past five years, it will all be worth it in the end.
Besides, he’s not the one with the $15 million price-tag this year. A cool $9 million is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s fair pay for one of the best guards in the league.
It would also be nice to see Mason get some recognition outside of Foxborough. His first Pro Bowl nod and/or getting named as an AP All-Pro would certainly be sufficient in that regard.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
Injuries are obviously the first thing that come to mind … for Mason and for most any player in the NFL.
Outside of getting hurt, there’s a natural “target” on your back when you’re the second-most expensive player on your team. The expectation is that you better be good — and better be consistently good.
Mason’s in no danger of getting cut, even if he somehow has a terrible season this year. Still, he’s expected to not only be solid as a starter — he’s expected to be a lynchpin along the offensive line. Anything less than that will frankly be considered unacceptable.