PATS REPORTER

Perry: Why Pats decided to pick up Wynn's fifth-year option

PATS REPORTER

Isaiah Wynn has played in 18 of a possible 48 games during his pro career. And he just got a raise.

Parents, raise your kids to be left tackles.

The Patriots picked up Wynn's fifth-year option, paying him a fully-guaranteed $10.4 million in 2022. Wynn's college teammate and fellow first-round pick of the Patriots, Sony Michel, did not have his option picked up.

The Wynn decision is a fascinating one, especially for a team run by a coach who has said before that he believes "dependability is more important than ability."

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Wynn has been a good player, bordering on excellent, when available. Among tackles with at least 600 snaps last season, Wynn (641 snaps) graded out as the 10th best in football, per Pro Football Focus. In 2019, Wynn (502 snaps) was graded as the NFL's No. 31 tackle among players with at least 500 snaps.

In short, in his second season, coming off an Achilles injury that wiped away his rookie year, Wynn was a starting-caliber tackle. Last season, his first season playing in 10 games, he was very good. 

He just hasn't been able to stay on the field. 

But at $10.4 million, Bill Belichick and the Patriots felt it was worth rolling the dice on a player with Wynn's ceiling. His salary in 2022 would rank him as the 12th most expensive left tackle in the NFL that year, according to OverTheCap.com.

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From the team's perspective, that's not bad value. Particularly considering that if they were looking for a veteran with Wynn's ability in free agency, he'd likely command more. While banking on Wynn staying healthy both in 2021 and 2022 is a real risk, the alternative would have been... unclear.

The Patriots didn't draft an offensive lineman last weekend until taking versatile tackle/guard prospect William Sherman in the sixth round out of Colorado. They have a second-year player in Justin Herron, another sixth-round pick, who could eventually see more work at tackle after a promising rookie season. Second-year player Michael Onwenu looks like a long-term answer at guard, though he played tackle as a rookie and was very effective. 

There's no clear succession plan in place. And if Belichick hadn't picked up Wynn's option, he could have been looking at filling two starting tackle roles next offseason; Trent Brown is scheduled to hit free agency next year. 

Picking up Wynn's option means the Patriots will have a potentially very good tackle on a close to average NFL salary. 

It means that in 2022 they'll avoid a scenario like the one they faced in 2018 when they lost Nate Solder to free agency and had to find immediate replacements. (They ended up drafting Wynn in the first round and trading for Brown the next day.) 

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And it means they'll have a player who knows the system to protect their young franchise quarterback Mac Jones, who'll still be in the nascent stages of his career.

Of course, none of those things will matter if Wynn can't stay healthy. But that position carries an enormous amount of importance across the NFL, and by picking up Wynn's option the Patriots are saying they believe they have a good one who's just had some bad luck early in his career.