Finishing the 2022 season with an 8-9 record and out of the playoffs, the New England Patriots have plenty of work to do to return to postseason contention. One big part of this process will be taking care of their own class of free agents.
Quite a few players are headed for the open market, with a total of 16 players left that were with New England last year in need of a new contract. Among them is offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, who is set to enter unrestricted free agency on March 15.
Name: Isaiah Wynn
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 76
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6-foot-3, 310 pounds
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
What is his experience? Following an impressive four-year career at the University of Georgia — one that saw him start 41 games and line up at both tackle and guard — Wynn entered the NFL Draft as one of 2018’s most impressive offensive line prospects. It was therefore no surprise to see him get selected with the 23rd overall pick by a Patriots team that had lost long-time left tackle Nate Solder in free agency just one month earlier. However, it took Wynn some time to eventually fill Solder’s shoes.
After starting his career in New England as a candidate for the number three tackle job behind Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon, a torn Achilles tendon suffered in his preseason debut knocked him out for the entire 2018 campaign. Wynn did return to the field the following training camp but once again was unable to make it through an entire season with a toe injury forcing him to sit out eight games. 2020 was more of the same for the former first-rounder: he missed six games because of a knee injury.
Wynn proved himself a more durable player in 2021, but still had an up-and-down season. In 2022, he was moved from his starting left tackle position to the right end of the line, struggled, and again ended the season sidelined. In total, the former Bulldog has therefore appeared in only 44 of a possible 87 games so far in his pro career. He looked promising early on his career, especially in 2019 and 2020— prompting the Patriots to pick up the fifth-year option in his rookie deal — but failed to build on those levels of play.
What did his 2022 season look like? As noted above, Wynn had some ups and downs in 2021, but there was still plenty of optimism heading into his 2022 contract season. He was still a serviceable and at times very good left tackle, after all, and having appeared in 17 of 18 games was just coming off the most durable year of his career. So, had he finally gotten over the hump and developed into the player the Patriots hoped they would get in the first round of the 2019 draft. The answer provided by his 2022 was a clear “No.”
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The issues started in the offseason, when Wynn opted not to join his fellow starter-level linemen for workouts. Given the voluntary nature of these sessions, his absence was not as big a problem as sports radio discussions or alarmist articles would make it sound. The much bigger problem from a holistic perspective was the fact that when he did eventually return for mandatory minicamp, the team led by new offensive line coach Matt Patricia had flipped from him his usual left tackle spot to the right side of the line.
The reason behind him changing positions with Trent Brown remains in the dark, but as opposed to his teammate Wynn had a hard time adapting to his new role. The Patriots did give him plenty of chances, and he himself played down the problems, but it was apparent that the change of position was a challenge for the then-26-year-old: he never seemed quite comfortable, had repeated technique breakdowns, and over his first six starts gave up three sacks and 10 additional quarterback disruptions (per Pro Football Focus).
Wynn played three more games, but at that point it became obvious that he was not up to the task. He served in a rotational role over his next two contests, briefly started at left tackle in Week 11, and eventually had to sit out three games because of a foot injury. That ailment would eventually keep him out for the remainder of the season and potentially put an end to his Patriots career entirely: Wynn was sent to injured reserve in mid-December, and never reactivated. At that point, the right tackle spot was on its fourth starter.
All in all, Wynn’s disappointing fifth year in the NFL saw him appear in nine games with seven starts — six at right tackle to start the year, plus an additional one on the left side later in the season in place of a sick Trent Brown (who eventually had to reenter the contest). Over the first 11 weeks of the season before his foot injury, the former first-round draft pick was on the field for 423 of a possible 633 offensive snaps (66.8%). He was credited with giving up four sacks among his 17 total pressures.
Free agency preview
What is his contract history? Wynn signed a standard four-year rookie contract with the Patriots in 2019 at a total cost of $11.44 million — all of it guaranteed. Despite missing a considerable portion of that contract due to injury, the team decided to add the fifth-year option at a cost of a fully-guaranteed $10.41 million. In total, he has therefore earned almost $21.9 million over the course of his still relatively young career.
Which teams might be in the running? Several teams around the league need upgrades at offensive tackle, and might therefore be in the market for pursuing Wynn’s services. Among those clubs are the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco 49ers.
Why should he be expected back? Even with Trent Brown still under contract and Conor McDermott re-signed for two more years, the Patriots’ offensive tackle position is a question mark. Wynn might not have been at his best in 2022, but he is still an experienced player who has had some very encouraging performances for the organization — particularly at the left tackle spot he manned earlier in his career.
Why should he be expected to leave? Reading too much into the limited information available can be a dangerous game, but Wynn did not appear to be a happy camper in 2022. Add the fact that his durability is a major concern, and that struggled in his new role, and you get why moving on without one another might be the best for both sides involved.
What is his projected free agency outcome? Wynn returning to the Patriots would be a major surprise. The expectation is that he leaves on a deal in the ball park of two years and $16 million. New England would, of course, have an interest in him maximizing his market: the bigger his contract, the more favorable he would factor into the compensatory draft picks formula for 2024.
Do you want the Patriots to re-sign Isaiah Wynn?
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Wynn signed a standard four-year rookie contract with the Patriots in 2019 at a total cost of $11.44 million — all of it guaranteed.Is Isaiah Wynn a free agent? ›
Whether literally or figuratively, New England Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn is “free.” The free agent offensive tackle will get his first taste of NFL free agency in 2023, and there's a strong possibility he could be playing football elsewhere.What team is Isaiah Wynn on? ›
New England Patriots offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn is putting any interested teams on notice before stepping to the contract negotiating table.