When Philadelphia Eagles guard Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles tendon during a workout earlier this week — an injury that will force him to miss the entire 2020 season — the question of how to replace the three-time Pro Bowler was naturally raised. One name that came up during those discussions was that of New England Patriots left guard Joe Thuney, himself one of the best interior offensive linemen in football and currently contractually bound to the team via his one-year, $14.78 million franchise tag tender.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer was the first to suggest that Thuney could potentially be on Philadelphia’s radar:
And I don’t think if they get through a couple weeks of camp, and Matt Pryor, Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll aren’t where they should be, that Roseman will hesitate to pick up the phone.
Would they take a big swing on someone like New England’s franchise-tagged All-Pro guard, Joe Thuney? Based on what I know … I think they’d at least explore it. But, again, that’s probably more of a down-the-road contingency thing for now.
While Breer’s report does not state Thuney being an option with any certainty, his name being mentioned did raise some eyebrows. But how realistic is the 27-year-old being available for the Eagles to acquire via trade really? And would Philadelphia even be interested in him in the first place given what we know about their roster and salary cap situation? Let’s try to answer these question to see how much if any validity the speculation surrounding the former third-round draft pick really has.
Breer mentioning Thuney is not the first time the guard’s name comes up as a potential trade option this offseason. Ever since the Patriots placed the franchise tag on him in mid-March, he was seen as an option to be moved in order to create some financial breathing room for a team currently only $650,989 under the salary cap (according to Miguel Benzan). Trading Thuney would, of course, add his entire non-guaranteed franchise tag tender to that total and give New England considerable more wiggle room.
With the July 15 deadline looming — if no deal is reached at that point, Thuney will play the entire 2020 season on the one-year tag — and talks between Thuney’s camp and the Patriots reportedly also not having gone anywhere so far, a trade does seem like a realistic option from the team’s perspective. Add the team’s depth behind him and the fact that his trade value will only go down after next month, there appears to be no better time to trade Thuney than now. This is particularly true considering the Eagles’ situation.
That said, back before the draft, we identified four reasons why New England should not trade the second-team All-Pro:
- Reliability and performance: Thuney has appeared in 74 of a possible 74 games over his first four years in the NFL, helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls, and has grown into one of football’s best and most durable offensive linemen.
- Staus of the offensive line: With left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews coming off injury-riddled seasons, subtracting Thuney would further weaken the unit and its stability — especially with long-time coach Dante Scarnecchia having retired in January.
- Long-term considerations: Keeping Thuney would give the Patriots a reliable presence up front, which could be of the utmost importance considering that a new starting quarterback (be he named Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer) will be groomed behind him.
- Salary cap considerations: There are other ways for the Patriots to create some short-term cap relief that do not involve moving on from an established player just entering his prime.
Putting all those arguments as well as the Patriots’ current personnel and long-term team building perspective into account, it seems as if the team has more incentive trying to work out a long-term deal with Thuney — as was stated in the official statement accompanying the decision to use the tag on him — than to trade him to Philadelphia. That does not eliminate a move as a possibility, in particular if Eagles general manager Howie Roseman offers a quality asset in return, but it does make it seem unlikely.
While the matter of whether or not to trade Thuney to Philadelphia (or any other team) is quite a nuanced one from the Patriots’ perspective, as was outlined above, it seems to be more straight forward from the Eagles’. Friend of Pats Pulpit and veteran sports writer Brandon Lee Gowton, for example, said the following about the speculation surrounding New England’s guard in a recent article for Bleeding Green Nation:
[A] trade for Thuney just doesn’t seem likely. He’s currently set to carry a $14.78 million cap number in 2020. The Eagles technically have enough cap space (~24.7 million) to afford that price tag but not when you account for how they’re planning on rolling that money over to 2021 since they’re currently projected to be $50.6 million over the cap.
Brandon is not the only person in Philadelphia to share this opinion. Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice also wrote about the Eagles possibly acquiring Thuney in a recent mailbag article of his:
Even if the Patriots were just like, “Hey guys, you can just have Thuney, don’t even bother giving us a draft pick for him,” the Eagles still probably couldn’t take on his contract. Add in that RG is probably the least important position on the offense, and the fact that the Pats would demand a high pick for him, and you can go ahead and ignore that silly rumor.
Given the team’s financial situation in 2021 (not even considering that the cap might go down due to the Coronavirus pandemic), it seems more likely that the Eagles will try to go with one of their younger players when it comes to replacing Brooks. The aforementioned Matt Pryor, Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll are three of the most prominent options the team has available. While adding Thuney would significantly improve Philadelphia’s depth at the guard position, such a move seems unlikely all things considered.
Could the Patriots still trade him, though? Sure, but the Eagles are probably not a destination worth considering.