The clock is ticking for the New England Patriots to work out a contract extension with starting left guard Joe Thuney, but they are “no closer” to reaching a deal with the four-year veteran “than they were in mid-March,” according to a report by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss. The Patriots, of course, have until July 15 to finalize a long-term pact with Thuney’s camp if they do not want him to play the 2020 season under the franchise tag tender sheet that he signed shortly after it was applied three months ago.
Extending Thuney would not just allow the Patriots to keep the second-team All-Pro beyond the 2020 season, but also to lower his current salary cap number of $14.78 million — a move that would give the team more financial flexibility after it currently finds itself only $650,989 under the cap, according to Miguel Benzan. Bringing Thuney’s cap impact this year down while still making him one of the highest paid players at his positions, would be the best-case outcome for both parties.
The problem is that Thuney’s camp has little incentive to do so at the time being.
Despite next year’s uncertain salary cap situation hanging over the league due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the potential impact it might have on the league’s revenue this season, Thuney appears to be in line for a major pay day if he enters unrestricted free agency next offseason. Even if he suffers an injury this year — Thuney is one of the most durable players in football and has never missed a game due to injury since joining the Patriots as a third-round draft pick in 2016 — he will one of the top guards to hit the market.
The Patriots and Thuney are not in a unique situation, though. Of the 14 franchise tags that were used this offseason, none have led to any long-term contract extensions so far.
The expectation is that talks all over the NFL will heat up as the league’s deadline draws closer, and New England could very well be among the teams to show increased urgency to get a deal done once the calendar flips to July. Up until that point, however, all options still appear on the table — from him playing on the franchise tag and entering free agency next year, to a long-term deal being reached, to the 27-year-old getting traded. For the time being, Option A seems like the most realistic one.