The Patriots and franchise-tagged left guard Joe Thuney didn’t reach an agreement on a contract extension by Wednesday’s deadline, as was the expectation for weeks, meaning the two-time Super Bowl champion will play on the franchise tag in 2020.
Thuney, who has only missed 34 snaps in four seasons and was Pro Football Focus’s fifth-best guard last season, is already counting $14.78 million against this year’s salary cap.
The two sides couldn’t bridge a sizable gap in contract negotiations to reach a deal before Wednesday’s deadline, with Thuney looking for a top-of-market deal for starting guards.
Although the Patriots can’t reach an agreement on a multi-year deal with Thuney now, they can still trade the 27-year-old. If not, Thuney will play on the tag for a year and the two sides can go back to the negotiation table before Thuney hits unrestricted free agency next offseason.
Due to an uncertain future for the league following the pandemic, teams were reluctant to give franchise-tagged players extensions this offseason. There will be a massive decrease in the cap for the 2021 season, or the money lost due to COVID-19 will be broken out over multiple years. The owners would obviously like the players to take the hit in one year, but the NFLPA is fighting to stretch it out. As a result, 12 of the 14 players tabbed with a franchise tag will play on the tag in 2020.
Thanks to settlements with Antonio Brown and Aaron Herandenz’s grievances, the Patriots have a little cushion cap-wise ($7.79 million in space) to keep Thuney for one more season.
However, Bill Belichick might decide that the compensation New England will receive in a trade outweighs having Thuney for a year and a 2022 compensatory pick if he walks in free agency.
And it’s also worth noting that Thuney’s new team would need to absorb the entire $14.78 million on their salary cap if they were to trade for him or the prorated amount if it’s in-season.
Based on present information, the Patriots seem content keeping Thuney for this season on the tag and working once again next offseason on a long-term deal before he hits free agency.
The idea for New England is to give whoever is under center, Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham, a rock-solid offensive line that includes center David Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason making up one of the league’s best interior trios alongside Thuney.
Thuney is giving up over 30 pounds to Andrew Billings here. His sturdy base, balance, strength, hand usage, and ability to play with great pad level/leverage on full display. Stud. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/gD2glwnzxT
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) July 15, 2020
Thuney has only surrendered one sack in pass protection over the last two seasons and was one of three offensive linemen to play over 600 snaps without committing a penalty in 2019.
Belichick’s standard for excellence includes three critical designations; durability, consistency, and skill of which Thuney checks all three boxes making the franchise tag a no-brainer.
Now the question is will Belichick and Thuney’s camp be able to bridge the gap on a long-term extension next offseason.