Longtime New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t a staunch advocate of the NFL’s franchise tag. Belichick used the tag 10 times in his 23 seasons at the helm of the organization.

But Belichick, as you might have heard, is no longer in charge. It begs the question: Could personnel man Eliot Wolf and first-year head coach Jerod Mayo agree to use the franchise tag this offseason?

The window to use the franchise and transition tags opens Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. It runs through March 5 at 4 p.m. and many organizations wait to use it until closer to the deadline. It’s not expected the Patriots will use it before the end of the week if they use it at all.

But given that New England has numerous holes on its talent-depleted roster, and has the financial means to spend this offseason, there’s reason to believe the Patriots could use the tag in 2024.

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It feels like a two-horse race between offensive tackle Mike Onwenu and safety Kyle Dugger but some have speculated about veteran tight end Hunter Henry, as well.

We ranked the order here:

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

1. Mike Onwenu
We’ve already made the case that Onwenu should be New England’s top internal priority. The 26-year-old offensive lineman played multiple positions during his rookie contract, and the offensive line is arguably the biggest area of need this offseason. Given that Onwenu would be one of the top offensive linemen available on the open market, the Patriots should do what they need to prevent him from reaching free agency. They might not be able to willing to outspend another tackle-needy team if Onwenu gets there. The non-exclusive tag for offensive linemen is $19.9 million in 2024, per OverTheCap. However, that doesn’t mean Onwenu will automatically play for that. New England could sign him to a long-term contract, and the franchise tag gives the Patriots more time to agree to terms with the 2020 sixth-round steal.

2. Kyle Dugger
The hard-hitting safety impressed during his rookie contract after Belichick used a 2020 second-round pick on the Lenoir-Rhyne product. The Patriots should strongly consider retaining him, and placing the $16 million non-exclusive tag is one way to do it. Similar to Onwenu, the tag could give the Patriots more time to negotiate with the 27-year-old safety on a long-term deal. Dugger, who played every defensive snap in all but three games in 2023, figures to have an impactful role in 2024, especially after the release of veteran Adrian Phillips.

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3. Hunter Henry
While New England’s lack of tight end depth behind Henry sparked the conversation, the Patriots would have to pay too much if they were to tag the 29-year-old. The non-exclusive tag for tight ends is $12 million. However, Henry’s tag number would be $18.6 million in 2024. It’s a 20% increase over his 2023 cap number, as pointed out by Patriots cap expert Miguel Benzan. Henry was productive during his three seasons in New England (133 receptions and 17 touchdowns in 48 games). And his ability to be a trusted target would help whoever is behind center in 20204. But paying Henry $18.6 million is not a great allocation of resources, especially with so many holes at premier positions.

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