The New England Patriots were not necessarily expected to apply the franchise tag on one of their upcoming free agents in 2020. Quarterback Tom Brady’s contract prohibiting the usage to keep him from the open market, and their comparatively tight salary cap situation made the team forgoing the tag the most likely outcome. The Patriots are known to zig when everyone expects them to zag, however, and used the tag nevertheless.
The team applied it on starting left guard Joe Thuney, who was arguably its top free agent outside of Brady and safety Devin McCourty. While tagging Thuney does not make him a guarantee to be on the Patriots’ roster in 2020 — a trade seems to be a realistic option — it does make New England one of 14 teams to use the tag to keep an impending free agent from hitting the market once it opens on Wednesday afternoon.
For comparison, the tag was only used on 11 occasions during the last two offseasons combined. This means that teams are more willing this year to use it in order to either keep talent in the fold, or to aggressively make moves on the trade market. Either way, the following players were tagged with the official numbers announced by the league added:
- DE Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($17.79 million)
- LB Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh Steelers ($15.83 million)
- WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals ($17.87 million)
- FS Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings ($11.44 million)
- RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans ($10.28 million)
- TE Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers ($10.61 million)
- DT Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs ($16.13 million)
- LB Matt Judon, Baltimore Ravens ($15.83 million)
- DE Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars ($17.79 million)
- QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys ($26.82 million)
- OG Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins ($14.78 million)
- FS Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos ($11.44 million)
- OG Joe Thuney, New England Patriots ($14.78 million)
- DT Leonard Williams, New York Giants ($16.13 million)
The franchise and transition tags are essentially one-year contracts that pay each player a fully guaranteed salary, with the value being dependent on the player’s position and the specific tag used. While the numbers do hit a team’s books right away even if no sheet is signed, players that have not signed off on the tag cannot be moved from one team to another — something that might be relevant when it comes to the Patriots and Joe Thuney.