The New England Patriots haven't officially decided if Tom Brady is returning (yet), but the team did make sure a key member of his offensive line isn't going anywhere. In likely the biggest surprise of the franchise-tag decisions, the Patriots decided to place the tag on left guard Joe Thuney (per Jim McBride of the Boston Globe).
Per CBS Sports NFL writer and former agent Joel Corry, Thuney would make $14.781 million in 2020. That's a major raise from the $2,218,357 he received with the Patriots last season, the final year of his rookie deal.
Thuney, 27, started all 64 games played for the Patriots since being a third-round pick by the team in 2016. He's never missed a game. His 1,140 snaps played was second most amongst all guards and he allowed just one sack last season. He also committed zero penalties in 2019, making his play even more impressive. Thuney was a second-team All-Pro last season.
With the Patriots placing the franchise tag on Thuney, the Patriots will have a projected $20,269,122 in available salary cap space (per Over The Cap). This isn't counting the extensions the team gave Devin McCourty and special teams ace Matthew Slater.
New England still has plenty of key free agents it hopes to re-sign, starting with Brady. They also have linebacker Kyle Van Noy, center Ted Karras, and linebacker Jamie Collins as top free agents set to hit the market.
The Patriots could also trade Thuney, especially since the two highest-paid players on their offensive line are guards (Shaq Mason the other). They could get a nice draft haul for Thuney, but he is heading into the prime of his career.
$14 million seems like a good value for Thuney at this point. He will become the highest-paid left guard in the NFL, just passing the $13.3 million (in terms of average annual salary) Andrew Norwell makes with the Jacksonville Jaguars.