Love will earn a base salary worth $540,000 in 2012, which was a non-negotiable figure based from the collective bargaining agreement. Exclusive rights free agents had to be tendered by Tuesday's deadline at 4 p.m. Otherwise, Love would have been an unrestricted free agent.
Now, the plan for Love and his team will be to orchestrate a longer contract, likely for two years. Love's agency, Klass Sports, did the same things with two other Patriots clients — linebacker Gary Guyton in 2010 and cornerback Kyle Arrington in 2011.
Guyton and Arrington were tendered as exclusive rights free agents before agreeing to two-year contracts. An exclusive rights free agent has two or fewer credited seasons, and their fate is entirely up to the organization's decision to tender them with a one-year contract.
The strategy to get Love locked up with a two-year contract makes sense for each party. First, Love's camp would negotiate the deal to get him a raise. But second, it would keep Love out of his restricted free agent year next offseason.
For the Patriots, it would ensure they wouldn't lose him, and they'd most likely negotiate the two-year deal to save themselves money in 2013 in the event Love continues to rapidly develop and they'd have to tag him with a first-round tender. For Love, it would give him a straight shot to unrestricted free agency, which is the goal for every player.
With Tuesday's start of free agency, the Patriots will likely have higher priorities than negotiating Love's extension, but based on precedent and Love's desire to get it done, there's a good chance it happens this summer.