Change is coming to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line, but the team is working hard to make sure it remains one of the best in the NFL.
On Friday, the Buccaneers announced the acquisition of eighth-year guard Shaq Mason from the New England Patriots via trade. Tampa Bay sent back their 2022 fifth-round draft pick in the deal. Originally a fourth-round pick in 2015, Mason played his first seven seasons with the Patriots, starting 111 of the 116 games in which he appeared, including the postseason. As is standard practice, the trade is pending a physical for Mason.
Tampa Bay led the NFL in passing yards while allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2021 and sent three of its five O-Line starters to the Pro Bowl. However, Pro Bowl left guard Ali Marpet has since retired from the NFL and starting right guard Alex Cappa is expected to leave in free agency. That opens up two starting spots and Mason is an obvious candidate to fill one of them. The Buccaneers have also recently re-signed Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and fifth-year guard Aaron Stinnie, another strong candidate to join the starting lineup.
"It starts up front and you always want to have a strong offensive line," said General Manager Jason Licht at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I think our offensive line was a major key to our success – winning a Super Bowl and having a really good record this year. We want to continue to build that offensive line or retain the players that we have on that offensive line to continue that position group being strong, and we'll just have to see how it goes. Sometimes what you want to do and what happens are two different things. But we definitely, ideally, want to keep it moving forward.
The Buccaneers took a big step in that direction on Wednesday, when the new league year began and the two teams were able to officially execute the Mason trade. The former Georgia Tech standout has started at least 13 games in each of the last six seasons and he's been in the starting lineup for all 13 of the Patriots' playoff games since he was drafted. Mason also is familiar with the Buccaneers' current starting quarterback, as he blocked for Tom Brady for five seasons, including two that ended with Super Bowl championships.
Mason started 10 regular-season games at left guard for the Patriots in his rookie season before moving to right guard for the team's two playoff contests. He then settled in as New England's right guard for the next six years.
This is the second time in Licht's eight years as the Buccaneers' general manager that the team has traded with the Patriots to acquire a starting lineman. In August of 2014, Tampa Bay sent a 2015 fourth-round pick and tight end Tim Wright to the Patriots for guard Logan Mankins, then a five-time Pro Bowler. Mankins played two seasons for the Buccaneers and started 31 games before retiring after being selected for his sixth Pro Bowl at the end of the 2015 campaign.
Mason will turn 29 shortly before the start of the 2022 season. The contract the Buccaneers inherit in the trade runs through the 2023 campaign.