The best guard available in free agency, Joe Thuney, was removed from the pool on Monday by the New England Patriots via the franchise tag.
On Monday, the New England Patriots did something surprising — they placed the franchise tag on offensive lineman Joe Thuney.
It’s not that Thuney isn’t worth the tag. It’s just that the Patriots are notoriously loathe to use the tag at all.
Many have speculated that the tag is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this story. Early reports and theories seemed to suggest that Thuney was only getting tagged so the Pats could explore trading him to another team — perhaps for a star wide receiver or tight end.
But as the day progressed, more and more pundits and analysts seemed to shift gears on their line of thinking. Particularly after New England released a statement regarding the signing, many people began to suspect that Thuney might be in the Patriots’ long-term plans after all.
Here’s that statement, courtesy of ESPN’s Mike Reiss:
"“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.”"
If Thuney is retained on the tag, he’ll be due nearly $15 million this coming year. Given the Patriots’ limited cap space and the necessity that the team find a new deal for either Tom Brady or some other quarterback who can lead their offense in 2020, it’s highly unlikely that the team keeps him at that price.
Keep in mind — the franchise tag amount of $15M is standard for all offensive linemen in 2020, regardless of specific position. That means that centers, guards, right tackles, and left tackles are all getting paid that same amount for the franchise tag.
Conventional wisdom in the NFL suggests that left tackles should get paid the most, as they’re protecting a quarterback’s blind spot. Because of that, the franchise tag for linemen is dragged much higher than it otherwise might have been for centers and guards.