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Dec 10, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks at different plays during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Based on some of the top candidates to receive the franchise tag around the NFL, Bill Belichick is going to have a harder time than expected improving the Patriots roster for 2021.

ESPN asked insiders throughout the league to name the top candidate for each NFL team to get the franchise tag in 2021, as Mike Reiss named Patriots left guard Joe Thuney. However, Reiss predicted that the Pats ultimately do not franchise Thuney.

But what about other notable free agents? Based on ESPN’s predictions, some of the best potential free agents may never get there.

It’s especially worrisome at wide receiver and tight end. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin predicts that the Bears will use the franchise tag on Allen Robinson. Jenna Laine believes the Bucs will franchise Chris Godwin on the way to an extension. Michael Rothstein says the Lions will franchise Kenny Golladay.

Belichick’s favorite tight end, Hunter Henry, is predicted to be franchised for the second straight year, according to ESPN’s Shelley Smith. Additionally, Turron Davenport predicts that the Titans will place the tag on tight end Jonnu Smith.

MORE: 5 potential trades for 2021 Patriots

If all of these players around the NFL end up getting the franchise tag, it’ll only make the offseason more challenging for Belichick and the Patriots. They’d still have plenty of weapons to choose from in free agency, but their hopes of landing one of the big fish would take a significant hit. The NFL franchise tag window officially opened on Tuesday and remains open through March 9.

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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.