The New England Patriots made two trades Tuesday, and one of them was a bit of a surprise.
The first deal was reported in the morning was New England sending edge rusher Chase Winovich to the Cleveland Browns for linebacker Mack Collins.
The bigger move came in the afternoon when it was reported the Patriots dealt starting right guard Shaq Mason to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers for just a fifth-round draft pick.
The salary cap implications of this trade are the real story.
Patriots salary cap wizard Miguel Benzan (@patscap on Twitter) has New England with just over $13 million in room under the cap as a result of this deal.
The Athletic's Jeff Howe, in the tweet below, breaks down the cap space opened by trading Mason, plus the dead money still on the Patriots' books.
The Patriots could use their increased cap space in a few ways.
They have already lost two quality offensive lineman in Mason and Ted Karras, who agreed to a three-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday. They might also lose starting right tackle Trent Brown, who remains an unrestricted free agent.
The offensive line has become arguably the team's most glaring roster need right now. Who is going to protect franchise quarterback Mac Jones in 2022? Re-signing Brown would be a good start, but even if he comes back, the Patriots need even more depth on the o-line.
They also can use the money freed up by the Mason trade to sign a veteran wide receiver such as Allen Robinson. The Patriots have to bolster their defense, too, primarily at linebacker and at cornerback following J.C. Jackson's reported departure to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Patriots have a bunch of roster weaknesses to address, but with many of the top free agents already off the board, Bill Belichick and his staff don't have many good options available unless they go back into the trade market.