The New England Patriots had until Wednesday, 4 pm to reach a long-term extension with starting left guard Joe Thuney to keep him from playing the 2020 season on the franchise tag. The two sides did not come to an agreement, however, which means that Thuney will now be on the team’s books with a salary cap hit of $14.78 million — the second highest behind only cornerback Stephon Gilmore — on a one-year deal.
The question, of course, now becomes this: What comes next for the Patriots and Thuney? Let’s take a look at the two individually to find out.
Where do the Patriots go from here?
With Thuney not signing a long-term deal just yet, the Patriots will have some serious capital invested in their offensive line this year: the starting left guard is getting $14.78 million, while right tackle Marcus Cannon and right guard Shaq Mason will be on the team’s books with cap numbers of $9.6 million and $8.7 million; center David Andrews and left tackle Isaiah Wynn, meanwhile, are comparatively cheap and will count $3.4 million and $3.1 million against New England’s books.
While the team might try to make some adjustments — Cannon’s contract seems like the safest out of the five bets — it still is in a solid financial position at the moment after getting a $6.55 million salary cap credit over the weekend as a result of settling outstanding grievances. The Patriots do therefore not have any immediate pressure to make any moves even without Thuney having signed a long-term contract that might have brought his cap number down this year.
Where does Joe Thuney go from here?
Thuney will play the 2020 season on the franchise tag and therefore make a sizable jump in terms of income: so far during his four-year career, he has earned $4.49 million in contractual value. Now, the 27-year-old will add the aforementioned $14.78 million to this total — while remaining in a position to cash in even more next year. Thuney, after all, is scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency next offseason. He could again receive the tag, of course, but this course of action does seem unlikely.
As for the upcoming season, Thuney will try to do two things from an individual perspective: 1.) Continue his development into one of the league’s elite interior offensive linemen after already being voted second-team All-Pro last year; 2.) Make it through the season healthy. Neither of those things are expected to be a problem for him though, at least when going on his career so far. Thuney has become better each year while starting all 74 games since arriving in New England in the third round of the 2016 draft.
Where does the Patriots-Thuney union go from here?
With the franchise tag deadline coming and going without any movement, the two sides will now have to wait until January 4 to get together again on the negotiating tables. Per the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement, franchise-tagged players cannot sign contract extensions until after their team’s final regular season game. For the Patriots this year, that game will be played on January 3 against the New York Jets. The following day, Thuney could theoretically sign a new deal.
That said, he will likely have little incentive to do so considering that he is scheduled to become a free agent just three months later. Likewise, the Patriots may want to play the situation safe with an unclear salary cap situation looming on the horizon. Taking a year-to-year approach might therefore be the best course of action for both parties at the time being — and one that does explain today’s lack of news.