Patriots considering trading LT Isaiah Wynn? Don’t count it out

Something is up with Isaiah Wynn.

The New England Patriots left tackle is exercising his right to skip voluntary organized team activities. And though that’s absolutely within the rules for every player, there’s a reason why highly-paid tight end Jonnu Smith and receiver Nelson Agholor are in attendance for this year’s sessions.

Wynn is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $10.4 million after the Patriots exercised the fifth-year option in his contract — and before the team watched him underwhelm in 2021.

The fact that Wynn has not participated in the two sessions open to the media was enough to draw the interest of ESPN’s Mike Reiss, who wrote “given the linemen the team now has in place, one wonders if there is some internal regret (about) Wynn’s $10.4 million cap charge,” and of NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran, who wrote “dealing Wynn (in a trade) would be a one-fell-swoop solution to the cap issue.”

I’m not the only person wondering whether the Patriots feel that Wynn’s salary cap number is bloated. As a team that needs salary cap space to simply sign its rookie class, the Patriots could see a solution by moving Wynn.

The first step in solving that riddle is pondering why he’s absent.

If Wynn’s absence is about money — and, frankly, he’s due and deserving of a big contract in the next 10 months even with inconsistent play — then the Patriots might just find themselves tussling with a discontent player over a new deal, just like they did with cornerback Stephon Gilmore last year. And we’ve seen how poorly that goes for both sides. New England’s stubbornness tends to prevent it from getting a significant return in the trade market and that stubbornness also hurts the player’s prospects for earnings. The Patriots got a sixth-rounder for Gilmore, who never got the money he wanted.

Maybe Wynn isn’t skipping because he wants an extension. Maybe he wants some much-needed time off. But if Wynn is at home enjoying the summer with his family, the Patriots can’t be happy. That’s a passable decision for linebacker Matthew Judon, who lit up the NFL with 12.5 sacks in his debut season on a massive contract. But Wynn? He’s coming off a ho-hum season where the Patriots probably wish they had not exercised the fifth-year option in his deal. They might, in fact, see Wynn as entirely expendable — losing some consistency (but not much) and gaining much-needed cap space.

So that’s the next step in a potential trade. The Patriots have to deem Wynn either unworthy of his contract and/or replaceable with players available.

How might they replace Wynn? Well, the Patriots experimented with tackle Trent Brown on the left side in the first OTA session. Brown was absent for the second OTA session open to the media, which meant that tackles Yodny Cajuste (left) and Justin Herron (right) took over with the starting unit. That’s more than a little cringeworthy. Neither has proven trustworthy for 60 minutes.

But we’ve already seen a few puzzling moves this offseason. New England cleared house at linebacker to make way for … Josh Uche and Ja’Whuan Bentley? The Patriots said goodbye to J.C. Jackson in favor of … Jalen Mills and Malcolm Butler? Bill Belichick might have another surprise up his sleeve. Maybe he’ll deal Wynn to another team — perhaps netting a second- or third-round pick — to make way for Brown at left tackle and Herron on the right side. It would be yet another questionable decision in an offseason full of them.

After a few years of Bill Belichick rebuilding his team like everyone else (drafting a QB in Round 1 and spending big money in free agency), Belichick is back to his wild and unpredictable offseason machinations. So in that way, this hypothetical trade makes perfect sense.

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