The Patriots caught many off guard by assigning the franchise tag to offensive lineman Joe Thuney on Monday. Many (including yours truly) speculated that the tag could be step one towards a tag-and-trade scenario, but that might not be the case. The club has discussed a long-term deal with the 27-year-old, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB (Twitter link).
With that, it’s at least possible that the Patriots will lock Thuney down for the long run. Still, it’s not in the Patriots’ nature to pay top dollar for players who are on the road towards open market riches. Even though Thuney will not get to explore his options this year, he’ll enter negotiations with plenty of leverage. If he were to stay with the team on the one-year tag, he’d either be in line to go into free agency unfettered next year, or force the Patriots to bump up his pay even further with a second tag.
The Patriots have a few months to hammer out a long-term deal with Thuney and ample time to explore trade scenarios. In the meantime, they’re feverishly at work to try and replace Tom Brady, who announced his departure from the team on Tuesday morning. Soon after his announcement, owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick issued statements to thank Brady for their many years together.