The New England Patriots had four months to work out a contract extension with starting left guard Joe Thuney after placing the franchise tag on him in mid-March. The two sides failed to come to an agreement, however, which means that Thuney will play the 2020 season on what is essentially a one-year, $14.78 million deal.
What the future holds for the Patriots and their former third-round investment is up in the air and will depend on various factors, but they both are somewhat in limbo beyond this season. This appears to be especially true when looking at the Patriots’ past franchise tag usage under head coach/general manager Bill Belichick, and how similar situations like Thuney’s were handled in the past:
- 2002: Kicker Adam Vinatieri signed to a three-year, $5.4 million contract.
- 2003: Safety Tebucky Jones was tagged and traded to the New Orleans Saints for third- and seventh-round draft picks in 2003 and a fourth-rounder in 2004.
- 2005: Kicker Adam Vinatieri played the 2005 season on the $2.51 million franchise tag before signing with the Indianapolis Colts the following offseason.
- 2007: Cornerback Asante Samuel held out until late August but ultimately played the 2007 season on the $7.79 million tag before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles the following offseason.
- 2009: Quarterback Matt Cassel was tagged and traded to the Kansas City Chiefs — together with linebacker Mike Vrabel — for a second-round draft pick in 2009.
- 2010: Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork signed a five-year, $40.0 million contract.
- 2011: Guard Logan Mankins signed a six-year, $51.0 million contract.
- 2012: Wide receiver Wes Welker played the 2012 season on the $9.5 million franchise tag before signing with the Denver Broncos the following offseason.
- 2015: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski signed a four-year, $17.2 million contract.
As can be seen, the Patriots found themselves in situations similar to Thuney’s three times over the last two decades: Adam Vinatieri (2005), Asante Samuel (2007) and Wes Welker (2012) all failed to reach contract extensions with New England before the deadline and eventually went on to play out the respective seasons under the tag. After those seasons were over, all three of them left the team via unrestricted free agency.
The historical context does therefore not look favorably for Thuney and the Patriots finding a long-term solution. That all being said, every contract is unique in its own right and the sample size is too small to draw any definitive conclusions about how the Patriots will handle Thuney compared to, most recently, Wes Welker. All options are still on the table at this point in time, even though the timeline has shifted a bit considering that a new deal cannot be signed until after the regular season.