New England Patriots

Oct 14, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) kicks a field goal during the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

UPDATE: The Patriots ultimately decided not to use the franchise tag on any player. Stephen Gostkowski, Trey Flowers, and Trent Brown, among others, are on track to hit unrestricted free agency next Wednesday, barring a last-minute extension.

The deadline is fast approaching for NFL teams to use the franchise tag. Despite prior reports that the Patriots planned to use theirs on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, a new report from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggests that they’re going in a different direction.

According to Rapoport, the Patriots haven’t ruled out the franchise tag but it’s not expected to be used on Gostkowski. However, the Pats would still like to have him back. Gostkowski is set to become an unrestricted free agent if he’s not franchised by 4 p.m. on Wednesday or signed to an extension before March 13 at 4 p.m., when the 2019 league year and NFL free agency begins.

Rapoport’s tweet can be interpreted in a number of ways. It could mean that Gostkowski is actually on the verge of signing an extension with the Patriots, which he did back in 2015 just before the deadline. Perhaps it means the Pats also aren’t ruling out the tag for DE Trey Flowers or LT Trent Brown, either of which would cost significantly more. The most likely scenario is that the Patriots decide not to tag any of them by the time the 4 p.m. deadline passes on Tuesday.

The Patriots lack a clear fallback plan for Gostkowski if he ends up departing via free agency, where he could easily become the highest-paid kicker in the NFL. But like the franchise tag itself, an extension also can’t be ruled out at this point.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.