In a surprise move, the Patriots have placed the franchise tag on left tackle Joe Thuney. The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride was the first to have this report. So, instead of hitting free agency on Wednesday, he still belongs to the Patriots who now will owe him a cool $14.781 million in 2020.
Thuney’s money officially goes on the books on March 18, at 4:00 p.m. That means that unless they start renegotiating with some of their established stars (Gilmore, Hightower) to create some cap space, they aren’t going to have much cap space left. That, on the surface, doesn’t bode well for the return of Tom Brady.
But…this could be the Patriots deciding to tag and then trade Thuney and thereby getting some draft capital for him today rather than a compensatory pick for him next spring. And a bigger point to consider is that by tagging and trading Thuney, the Patriots can dictate where he goes. More to that below. However, the Patriots released a statement saying they are tagging Thuney to try to work out a long-term deal.
“Joe has been a model teammate and an essential element to our success since joining our team in 2016. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach the goal of a long-term agreement.”
Again, on the surface, this would make it seem that the Patriots are interested in keeping who was their best offensive lineman around for the long-term. And who could blame them for that?
Thuney has outstanding on the field and a model of consistency while answering the bell, not only for every game but playing nearly every snap as well. Thuney, 27 has made 74 straight starts including the playoffs for the Patriots.
But at the end of last season, we thought, as everyone else did, there was no way that they’d be able to keep Thuney and most of their other free agents, given that their cap situation is so low. This is just another case of the Patriots going against the grain when it comes to predicting what they are going to do.
There are so many scenarios at play here, and as always Bill Belichick will keep the rest of the league guessing at to what their true intentions are until the last minute. This could be a way of protecting themselves in the case that they can’t work out a deal for Tom Brady. Then they’ll be protecting whoever they do have at QB with their best OL at least for 2020.
But the feeling here is that this will be a tag and trade scenario. They get immediate compensation and can pick the spot where Thuney goes and perhaps keep him out of the AFC East. As we wrote in our Sunday notes, Thuney was expected to generate a ton of interest from both Miami and the New York Jets, and perhaps the Patriots don’t want to help either of those.
Thuney is now making left tackle kind of money in the league, it is really doubtful that the Patriots could lessen his cap hit very much to keep him around long-term. One common theory which is now shot was that they’d tag and trade him to Houston for DeAndre Hopkins. But Houston inexplicably traded Hopkins to Arizona for David Johnson, a 2nd round draft pick this year and a 4th next year. Maybe the Texans should have made a bigger push for Nick Caserio one more time this spring.
Needless to say, the news is already popping with the league.
On the tight end front, with Hunter Henry tagged, Austin Hooper is moving to Cleveland and the Cowboys have signed TE Blake Jarwin to a long-term deal, seemingly moving on from Jason Witten. One thing is for sure, the market for TEs is drying up quickly.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2020 NFL Free Agency Bill Belichick Franchise tag designation Joe Thuney New England Patriots NFL Tom Brady