Patriots decision on Kyle Dugger hints at fate of Mike Onwenu

New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots v Arizona Cardinals / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Today at 4 pm is the cutoff for teams to franchise tag any player they choose, and the Patriots were one of the many that hadn't done that yet. There was a lot of speculation about the front-running players who would likely be in contention for it this offseason: Kyle Dugger and Mike Onwenu.

However, it appears Jerod Mayo has decided to skip the franchise tag and use the less often-used transition tag instead.

Placing the transition tag on Dugger essentially means he will be a restricted free agent, allowing the Patriots to match any offer he may receive from another team. He will earn a $13.8 million salary for the upcoming season unless that increases due to other teams' interest, and they can still work on a long-term deal in the meantime.

It prevents the safety from really hitting free agency, allowing any team to persuade him to leave New England. And although this is breaking news in itself, there's more to it than what meets the eye involving Onwenu's pending free agent status.

Patriots decision on Kyle Dugger hints at fate of Mike Onwenu

Because Onwenu was also believed to be a candidate for the franchise tag, this now eliminates that option and means he will test free agency for the first time in his career. The Patriots may have already reached a deal with him that hasn't been announced yet, but we'll have to wait and see.

It could mean Mayo feels comfortable negotiating a deal with the lineman since letting him test free agency as the best of the class is quite a risk. The hope is that's more the truth than being okay with watching him play elsewhere next season.

That would be a disastrous way to start the new era in Foxboro since Onwenu has been their best player on the offensive line and losing him and Trent Brown would make filling the voids they left behind much more difficult.

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