New England Patriots

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Joe Thuney (62) gets ready before the snap against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

In one of the more surprising moves of the NFL offseason so far, the Patriots are spending big on one of their top pending free agents. As first reported by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, they are placing the franchise tag on left guard Joe Thuney.

According to updated projections from Joel Corry at CBS Sports, Thuney’s franchise tag number would be set at just under $14.7 million. He was expected to be one of the top offensive linemen available in NFL free agency and fetch a long-term deal with a similar average annual value.

This move doesn’t necessarily guarantee that Thuney will stay in New England for the 2020 season. Since his cap number is similar to what he’d make as a free agent, he could still be an attractive trade chip for teams around the league. Franchising Thuney gives Bill Belichick an opportunity to recoup a better draft pick than the compensatory third-rounder he’d get if Thuney left.

Thuney was one of the best, most reliable guards in the NFL over the first four seasons of his career. He never missed a snap in 2016-18, becoming the first player in history to start in the Super Bowl in each of his first three years. He didn’t miss a snap until 2019, but still led the team with 1,140 total offensive snaps (99.2 percent).

The Associated Press recognized Thuney in 2019 with second team All-Pro honors. He was on track to make a boatload of money no matter where he ended up. Barring a trade, he’ll cash in for one more year in New England.

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.