The Patriots wanting to keep Joe Thuney around was a no-brainer, as the 2019 second-team All-Pro has established himself as one of the premier guards in all of football.

Stabilizing its offensive line might not have been the only reason New England was keen on keeping Thuney in Foxboro, however.

The Patriots, in a somewhat surprising move at the time, slapped the franchise tag on Thuney back in March. Many believed the move was merely a precursor to a Thuney trade, but all signs point to the 2016 third-rounder taking post next to David Andrews come Week 1.

In a column published to NFL.com Wednesday, Gregg Rosenthal ranked tagged players by how likely they are to stay with their current teams beyond the 2020 season. Rosenthal listed Thuney at No. 7, but his analysis included a fairly interesting nugget about the Patriots’ handling of the 27-year-old.

“There is some belief that the Jets’ reported interest in Thuney helped inspire Bill Belichick to keep him off the market,” Rosenthal wrote. “It will be harder to do again in 2021, especially considering Belichick’s history of not paying interior linemen top dollar. Thuney’s tag-team partner at guard, Shaq Mason, signed a below-market deal in 2018, which could complicate any negotiations with Thuney. Like many Patriots over the years, Thuney will probably have to leave to max out his money.”

Vintage Belichick.

Thuney will rake in nearly $15 million this season under the terms of his franchise tag. But as Rosenthal suggests, it very well could be the fifth-year pro’s last go-around in New England.

More Patriots: What Future Might Hold For Thuney, Pats

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