The Patriots swung a pair of trades on Tuesday, parting ways with stalwart right guard Shaq Mason after shipping out outside linebacker Chase Winovich, league sources confirmed.
Mason, a starter since arriving as fourth-round pick in 2015, was sent to Tampa Bay, where he will reunite with a familiar face he used to protect in Tom Brady, in exchange for a fifth-round pick.
New England did not have a fifth-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft after using it to acquire offensive tackle Trent Brown from the Raiders last March.
Winovich, who had his playing time drop significantly in 2021, was sent to the Browns for inside linebacker Mack Wilson.
Though the Mason move weakens New England’s offensive line — they lost left guard Ted Karras to the Bengals Monday — it does clear up approximately $7 million in salary-cap space. The Patriots will carry a $3.15 million dead-money cap hit with the transaction.
The Buccaneers were in need of an overhaul at guard after losing a pair of longtime starters — Ali Marpet surprisingly retired after the season (though that was before Brady announced his return to the NFL) and Alex Cappa agreed to a four-year deal with the Bengals.
A road-grading run blocker, Mason played in 116 games over seven years with the Patriots (playoffs included) and started three straight Super Bowls, earning rings with wins over Atlanta (LI) and the Los Angeles Rams (LIII).
“Shaq’s been a really solid player for us,’’ Bill Belichick said in December. “He’s been tough, durable, and athletic. For his size, he has good power.’’
Mike Onwenu likely will slide into one of New England’s vacant guard spots on the offensive line, which now only has center David Andrews and left tackle Isaiah Wynn as returning starters. Brown is set to hit free agency Wednesday.
The Patriots also have guards Yasir Durant, James Ferentz, Will Sherman, Drew Desjarlais, and Arlington Hambright and tackles Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron under contract.
I am so grateful for my experience in New England.— Chase Winovich (@Wino) March 15, 2022
The love, spirit, and support have been absolutely unreal.
This entire region will always hold the most special of places in my heart.
The time is now for the next chapter of my journey.
Winovich’s familiar shock of blond hair went away over the weekend when he debuted a new doo on social media, and now he’s gone from the New England landscape as well
The Michigan product had a strong start to his pro career, registering 11 sacks over his first two seasons after being drafted in the third round in 2019. His snaps slipped significantly in 2021, playing just 10 percent of the defensive snaps and registering just five total tackles on the season.
Winovich was a healthy scratch for the playoff loss in Buffalo, a harbinger of his future with the Patriots.
“I am so grateful for my experience in New England,’’ Winovich tweeted shortly after the trade. “The love, spirit, and support have been absolutely unreal. This entire region will always hold the most special of places in my heart. The time is now for the next chapter of my journey.’’
Wilson, who like Winovich is in the final year of his rookie deal, was a rotational player in Cleveland’s defense. The Alabama product has 160 tackles in three seasons and his arrival provides insurance at the position in case impending free agents Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Ja’Whaun Bentley don’t return for 2022.
The Patriots are young and thin at the off-the-ball linebacker spot, with Raekwon McMillan, Jahlani Tavai, Anfernee Jennings, Cam McGrone, and Terez Hall expected to be in the mix.
Belichick and the Patriots are familiar with Wilson from his Alabama ties, the pre-draft process and a pair of games (2019 and 2021). In those games, Wilson collected 10 tackles in 86 defensive snaps.
Shortly after the trade, Mac Jones tweeted at his former college teammate, “BAMA … let’s work.’’
Both offensive line and linebacker likely will be addressed in the draft. The Patriots currently have seven picks, one each in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth rounds, and two in the sixth.