By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots kicked off the week with one of the most surprising moves of the NFL offseason so far, keeping guard Joe Thuney in the fold with a franchise tag designation. They made the move official with an announcement on Monday.
But the most striking part of the announcement came in the form of a statement from the Patriots: "Joe has been a model teammate and an essential element to our success since joining our team in 2016. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach the goal of a long-term agreement."
This still doesn't take the possibility of a trade off the table. Just because the two sides have a goal doesn't mean it's guaranteed to be achieved. But the statement is certainly telling. It's unlikely the Patriots would come out and state their goal if they didn't intend to reach it.
Thuney will be on New England's books for $14.781 million under the new franchise tag numbers. He was very likely to receive a long-term deal with a similar AAV if he signed elsewhere as a free agent. It appears that he will get that contract with the Patriots.
If anyone has earned such a deal from Bill Belichick, it's Thuney. He played 99.2 percent of offensive snaps in 2019 and excelled as the starting left guard, earning second team All-Pro honors. He played 100 percent of snaps and started in three straight Super Bowls in the first three years of his career.
Surprising all-around. But not so much if you consider the value that Thuney has had on the Pats' offensive line, particularly in a season as beleaguered as 2019.
The Patriots will now have both guards, Thuney and RG Shaq Mason, locked up for the foreseeable future. Barring major changes, Thuney and Mason will come at a combined cap charge of over $23.5 million.
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 [email protected].