Patriots: Here are notable names to look out for ahead of the franchise tag deadline

Bears WR Allen Robinson (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Bears WR Allen Robinson (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

We’ve been waxing poetic for months on end about how the New England Patriots need to push the envelope this offseason with regards to upgrading their roster.

Well, with the start of the new league year just over a week away, it’s almost officially time for them to literally put their money where their mouth is and we wouldn’t fault any fans who already have butterflies in their stomach. In fact, that should almost be expected.

However, while we wait for the onset of free agency, the Patriots should be keeping a close eye on the franchise tag window, which is set to close on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, though the league will be forced to extend the deadline if the official salary cap figure isn’t announced on Monday.

Whatever ends up happening, it goes without saying that the next 24 hours could have serious implications on the Patriots’ offseason plans, and ESPN insider Mike Reiss highlighted a few potential targets fans should monitor during that span in his latest column.

Here’s what Reiss had to say about the approaching tag deadline, and the potential ripple effect it could end up having on the Patriots if some free agents were tagged by their current teams.

"“The window for teams to assign the franchise tag opened Feb. 23 and since then … just one tagged player (Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons). This sets up a notable couple days if the Patriots are thinking big to fill their needs at wide receiver and tight end, with the tag window closing Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.“If wide receivers Allen Robinson II, Kenny Golladay and Chris Godwin, and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith aren’t tagged, it’s an open bidding situation. If Patriots coach Bill Belichick peeked into his hypothetical suggestion box, I’d submit one word: Pounce.”"

What was that we were saying about stomachs and butterflies? At this point in the offseason, it’s abundantly clear that the Patriots need to make major upgrades at wide receiver and tight end, and Robinson, Golladay, Godwin, Henry and Smith will arguably be the top options on the free agent market.

Teams generally tend to take it down to the wire when it comes to tagging players, but the fact that only one player (Broncos safety Justin Simmons) has been tagged thus far since the window opened on Feb. 24 bodes tremendously well for the Patriots in terms of them having a full collection of players to choose from.

Again, it remains to be seen who the Patriots have identified (if anybody) as their preferred targets at receiver and tight end, but the fact that any of them could come off the board 24 hours from now is a pretty terrifying concept.

That only proves de facto general manager Bill Belichick, who is notorious for embracing the “my way or the highway” ultimatum as far as signing his self-approved top option, should have a list of targets for each position ready to go in the next 24 hours.