The New England Patriots surprised many around the league by using their franchise tag on offensive guard Joe Thuney earlier this offseason, but depending on who comes calling before or during the 2020 NFL Draft, Thuney might not end up returning to the Patriots at all. According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, the two sides "haven't been close to an extension," and it wouldn't be out of the question for Bill Belichick and Co. to solicit trade offers for the All-Pro blocker.

Thuney's future with the Patriots "bears watching during the draft," Reiss wrote Sunday, especially because the team ranks among the bottom five in terms of current salary cap space and is set to pay Thuney $14.78 million this year. The 27-year-old lineman "holds notable leverage" in contract talks because of his high cap figure, Reiss added, so "if a guard-needy team is willing to deal a second- or high third-rounder to help fill in the Patriots' draft board, that would have to be something Belichick seriously considers."

New England, remember, is already operating without a 2020 second-round pick after trading its selection to the Atlanta Falcons for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu during the 2019 season. The Patriots are also one of the most active teams in recent memory when it comes to dealing picks and players during the draft.

A third-round pick of the team in 2016, Thuney became the first player in NFL history to log three Super Bowl starts in his first three seasons while manning the left guard spot for New England. An All-Pro selection in 2019, the NC State product has never missed a game in his four-year career and is considered one of the most versatile blockers on the Pats' line.