Return of Trent Brown could signal major shake-up along Patriots offensive line


Trent Brown is back in New England.

According to multiple reports, the Patriots are expected to complete a trade with the Raiders for offensive tackle Trent Brown. The deal has the teams swapping fifth-round picks next year and the Patriots sending an additional seventh-rounder. The deal cannot become official until the new league year begins next week.

Brown will play on a one-year contract, which has a salary cap hit of $11 million.

The 27-year-old won a Super Bowl in his only year in New England, 2018, starting all 16 games at left tackle. He then departed that offseason, signing a massive deal with the Raiders and switched over to right tackle. Brown made the Pro Bowl, but battled injuries and was on the COVID-19 list for the majority of last season, playing just five games.

So, what does this mean for the Patriots?

First off, it means a few of their current veterans may not be back, as the team cannot pay everyone. Joe Thuney and David Andrews are both free agents and then Marcus Cannon reportedly plans on playing in 2021 after opting out last year, but carries a $9 million cap hit.

As of now, it appears Thuney has a very slim chance of returning given he’s the best guard on the market and will certain get plenty of big offers, which the Patriots won’t match. It’s complicated for Cannon considering the team already has Isaiah Wynn, who is going into his fourth season (did miss all of 2018), so it could release the veteran with his high cap hit, or it could set up for a massive shake-up along the offensive line (more on that to come). It doesn’t seem to impact Andrews all that much since the Patriots do have the fourth-most cap space in the league, so they can spend money and Andrews plays strictly center.

A number of the Patriots’ offensive linemen have versatility, which makes it very hard to predict what this means for the unit next season.

For starters, does Brown play left tackle or right tackle? If it’s right tackle that could signal Cannon isn’t in the plans, as he doesn’t have as much versatility as others. In that scenario, it would be Wynn at left tackle and Brown at right tackle. Wynn was viewed as a guard coming out of the draft, so there’s a chance to slide him inside. The same goes for rookie Michael Onwenu, who played outstanding at right tackle last year, but his natural position is inside. Bill Belichick said towards the end of the season the team would need to decide on what to do with him moving forward.

Onwenu seems likely to move inside and replace Thuney at left guard and then the team will have to decide what to do at the tackle spots. If it believes in Wynn, it would make sense to keep him at left tackle, Brown at right tackle and release Cannon.

There’s also Justin Herron, a late-round pick last year, who played a number of spots last season. He’s more of a backup, though.

Another thing to consider is the Patriots aren’t done making moves and the unit is not a finished product. Perhaps, there’s more clarity in the coming days and weeks.

Bottom line, the Patriots’ offensive line will look a lot different in 2021 and the majority of players involved have a ton of versatility so a lot is on the table.

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