FOXBOROUGH — Shaq Mason isn’t going anywhere.
An immovable force on the Patriots’ offensive line for the past three years, Mason has proven to be one of the NFL’s most athletic and alluring young guards. Now he’ll be paid like one, too.
The Patriots signed Mason to a five-year contract extension worth up to $50 million, a league source confirmed Monday. The deal includes $23.5 million guaranteed and makes him one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL.
“It’s a relief,” said Mason, whose rookie deal was set to expire at the end of the 2018 season. “I’ve known I wanted to be here. It’s the team that believed in me from the jump. That’s huge.”
Mason, who turns 25 on Tuesday, was drafted out of Georgia Tech in the fourth round in 2015. As is the case for many interior linemen entering the pros, his pass-blocking skills lacked the refined quality of his work in the run game. That didn’t worry Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who valued Mason’s ability to pick things up on the fly from Day 1.
“[Mason’s pass-blocking] certainly improved like it would for any player over a period of time, but he got it pretty quickly, adjusted pretty quickly,” said Belichick. “He’s got good power, he’s quick, he runs well, so he has the qualities to be able to do that, it was just refining the techniques a bit.”
What New England identified in Mason that other teams missed was a superior athleticism to many who play his position. Mason is quick despite his frame (6 feet 1 inch, 310 pounds).
It’s a trait that’s helped him stay on the field at a position in which injuries are considered commonplace.
“Shaq’s done a good job for us from the time he got here,” said Belichick. “He came from an offense that’s quite different from ours. He adapted quickly and did a really good job of learning new techniques. He’s an athletic player, has good strength, good balance, excellent run-blocker, can pull. He’s gotten better each year.”
Mason appeared in 14 games as a rookie in 2015, starting 10. He came off the bench in New England’s 2016 opener at Arizona, splitting time with fellow guard Joe Thuney. Since then, he’s made 37 consecutive starts (regular and postseason), and last year he played 1,360 of a possible 1,363 possible snaps.
Now, New England’s interior offensive line is set, with center David Andrews and Thuney under contract for next year.
“It’s great news,” said Thuney. “He’s a great player and even better teammate so [I’m] really happy for him. It’s awesome.”
Brady hangs up
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady abruptly ended his weekly interview with WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” on Monday morning after being asked questions regarding his trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero.
Brady answered host Kirk Minihane’s first question, confirming that Guerrero was on the team plane for New England’s trip to Carolina last Thursday. This represents a shift from late last year, when Guerrero was stripped of his privileges by Belichick, which included denying him access to the sidelines on game days, as well as restricting his flight credentials.
When Minihane followed up by inquiring what led to the change from last season, Brady curtly responded, “I’m not getting into all that.”
Minihane then tried a different route, positing that the Guerrero-Belichick rift was overblown and asking if the pair’s relationship was stronger than had been reported. No dice. His final try — “Was [Guerrero] on the sideline Friday?” — was greeted with a salutation by Brady, who then hung up.
Belichick was similarly brief and not forthcoming when asked about the situation.
“I’m not going to get into all the responsibilities of all the people in our organization,” he said. “We’d be here for a month going through all that.”
The Patriots bid farewell to wide receiver Eric Decker after the eight-year veteran announced his retirement Sunday. Though his stint in New England was brief, he left a positive impression on those he encountered over the past few weeks.
“He was a professional,” said Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan. “Came in here, worked really, really hard, and picked up this offense very fast, as fast as I’ve seen a guy come in here and get thrown into it right away. I wish Eric nothing but the best.”
Belichick was equally effusive.
“He’s had a great career,” Belichick said. “I have a lot of respect for Eric going all the way back to when we talked to him coming out of Minnesota, and when Josh [McDaniels] drafted him, and to Tennessee, and the Jets and so forth. I enjoyed working with him.”
The Patriots announced three signings Monday. The fresh faces at practice were running backs Kenneth Farrow and Khalfani Muhammad and wide receiver K.J. Maye . . . Running back Sony Michel (knee) and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (unknown) returned to practice for the first time since Aug. 1. . . Linebacker Harvey Langi (kidney), offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (left Achilles’), tight end Ryan Izzo (unknown), and offensive lineman Luke Bowanko (unknown) were absent at practice.
Owen Pence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.