The New England Patriots aren’t operating with an abundance of leftover cash right now.
With the draft and most of free agency behind us, the Pats find themselves tight up against the salary cap, much like when the offseason began. That’s led some to wonder if a trade of Joe Thuney is looming, as New England franchise tagged the offensive lineman earlier this offseason, so he’s now set to make $14 million in 2020.
But parting with Thuney would be a tough blow to the Patriots’ offensive front, so moving him, one would think, would be a last resort.
During an interview on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria,” former NFL executive Mike Lombardi, who also is a NESN contributor, explained how New England could keep Thuney around and at a more manageable figure.
“Well, they can free up a ton of money because right now he is counting for $14 million on their cap,” Lombardi said, as transcribed by WEEI.com. “The problem with franchising a player is the agent always takes the number and then adds 30 percent next year and 30 percent the year after that and 30 percent the year after that and he comes up with his total number and says, ‘Well, for four years we’ll do this deal.’ Well, that is not realistic. It is a challenge to do a deal when you have a franchise tag on a player.
“If they were, let’s hypothetically say Thuney said to his agent, ‘Hey, do a short-term deal. Let’s do two years at $12 million a year, so $24 million.’ You could make something work. Let’s remember, the Patriots are going to have almost $100 million in cap room next year, so that is not going to be a challenge with how they fit players under their cap, but it is this year. They can do a lot of maneuvering there, but I think it is going to take Thuney’s willingness to do it as much as anything.”
Historically, Bill Belichick has done a good job of getting his players to restructure deals so that the Patriots have more cap space to work with in the short term. But as Lombardi outlined, it’s challenging to do with players who are on the franchise tag. So whether or not Thuney is agreeable to that remains to be seen.