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New England Patriots

(Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

As one offensive lineman enters, another one leaves. Hours after the Patriots traded for tackle Trent Brown, multiple reports indicated that guard Joe Thuney, a pending free agent, is likely to hit the open market next week.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated first reported that the Patriots and Thuney’s camp “have had very minimal conversations” in regards to a new contract. That was followed by an Adam Schefter tweet stating the Patriots “are not expected” to use the franchise tag on Thuney this year. With no new contract on the table and the tag not an option, the path is clear for Thuney to enter unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.

Thuney was in line to be a free agent last season, but the Patriots kept him around using the franchise tag. At the time, the belief was the two sides hoped to reach a long-term extension. However, with the shrinking NFL salary cap, a franchise tag value of over $15 million, and emergence of 2020 sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu, Thuney became expensive and expendable and that extension never happened

With Washington franchise tagging guard Brandon Scherff on Monday night, Thuney became the unquestioned top guard on the free agent market, and will likely receive a record-breaking contract. Given his value, and the Patriots host of needs across their roster, a free agency deal to bring him back feels highly unlikely.

A third-round pick in 2016, Thuney’s Patriots’ career was stellar. He was regularly one of the top guards in football, and a cornerstone of two Super Bowl winning offensive lines. On top of that he never missed a game, making 80 starts over five years.

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Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.