In a move that can be considered more of a formality than anything else, multiple media outlets are reporting that the Patriots have assigned third year defensive tackle Kyle Love the exclusive rights free agent tender.
Had the Patriots chosen not to assign Love the tender, he would have become an unrestricted free agent at 4:00 PM ET. However, that option was never really considered a realistic possibility.
After making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2010, Love went from a part-time player his rookie year into a full-time starter in year two. When the Patriots were in four man fronts, Love started next to Vince Wilfork as a defensive tackle. When the Patriots switched to the 3-4, Love stayed inside at nose tackle with Vince Wilfork moving outside to 5-technique.
In 2011, Love played in 16 games while starting 13, and he picked up 33 tackles and three sacks. He isn't a dominant defensive tackle, but he's proven to be a reliable player who certainly has the ability to be a starter. He's stout against the run, and has shown that he can push the pocket on occasion and pick up the occasional sack.
There have also been reports (H/T to Ian Rapoport and Greg Bedard) that the Patriots are seeking to work out a short-term extension with Love (would likely been for two years). The deal could wait until the summer, but would give Love a pay raise and allow him to avoid restricted free agency next Spring. Such a deal would be a no-brainer for both sides.
Extra Point: For those wondering, if Love were to play under the ERFA tender, it would pay him $540,000 in 2012.