After placing the franchise tag on Joe Thuney in mid-March, the New England Patriots released a statement saying they hoped to use the tag as a springboard toward a long-term contract extension.
More than a month later, they’ve made little progress, according to a report Sunday from ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss.
Thuney’s representatives and the Patriots “haven’t been close to an extension,” per Reiss, who speculated the second-team All-Pro left guard could be traded before or during this week’s NFL draft.
“If a guard-needy team is willing to deal a second- or high third-rounder to help fill in the Patriots’ draft board,” Reiss wrote in his Sunday notes column, “that would have to be something Belichick seriously considers with the knowledge that the sides haven’t been close to an extension.”
The Patriots surely would prefer to keep Thuney, who’s started every game since he entered the NFL in 2016, but doing so would be financially burdensome unless the sides can agree on an extension.
Under the terms of his franchise tag, Thuney is set to make $14.78 million this season — New England’s second-highest salary cap hit behind cornerback Stephon Gilmore — and that figure is clogging the Patriots’ books. They entered the weekend with less than $1 million in cap space and several roster holes (tight end, linebacker, third quarterback, etc.) that still need addressing.
Trading Thuney would relieve the Patriots of that $14.78 million charge, and landing a second- or early third-round pick in return would close the gap between their first and second selections. They currently own just one of the top 86 picks (No. 23 overall) after shipping their second-rounder to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu last season.
The 2020 NFL Draft begins Thursday night.