Patriots

Patriots

The time is officially passed for Joe Thuney and the Patriots to get a new deal done.

Despite the team’s stated goal of getting a long-term deal done that would knock his number down from the franchise tag total of $14.78M for 2020, Thuney’s playing for that fat sum this year.

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“Value” is the oil that’s allowed the Patriots machine to run smoothly for 20 years. Thuney on the tag does not represent value.

He’s the second-highest paid guard in the league. The team has almost $24M tied up in cap space between Thuney and fellow guard Shaq Mason. In eight months, when Thuney’s deal is up, the likelihood is he’s going to be looking for a deal that starts at around $14M.

If the Patriots don’t’ ante up — and one would figure they probably won’t — Thuney goes and the Patriots get a third-round compensatory pick the following year. Probably.

Thuney is one of the best in the business at his trade. But reality is, the difference between a great guard and a serviceable guard isn’t as great as, say, a great quarterback, cornerback or wide receiver and a serviceable one of those.

Not being able to replicate Thuney doesn’t mean they can’t replace him. So why not trade him? Find a willing trade partner, get that locked-in compensation for the 2021 draft, free up cap space, you know … make a value play?

 

The Senator wrote about Thuney on Wednesday and gave a nod to the possibility.

Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal did more than give it a nod, advocating for it being the only sensible thing to do on Wednesday’s Felger & Mazz Show.

The problem with that idea?

Joe Thuney’s $14.78M cap hit for 2020 travels with him. He’s franchised, the deadline to get him a new deal has passed and that goes for everyone, not just the Patriots.

So how many teams currently have more than $15M in cap space? 15.

How many of those teams have a lot less than that space truly available since so few teams have finished signing their rookie classes (not to mention the litany of other cap-gobbling costs that accrue)? A lot of them.

How many of those teams are going to be stingy as hell with their space knowing that the hit from a declining salary cap in 2021 can be lessened by rolling over 2020 cap space? Every single one of them.

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How many teams are going to think trading a second-round pick for a guard who's going to need a fat deal in eight months is wise, especially without a guarantee he’ll resign? A couple? Maybe. They say there’s a sucker born every minute. Four decades later, a lot of them wind up as NFL GMs. So never say never.

But Thuney in 2020 is probably going to be an exception to Bill Belichick’s value system. If a team in contention feels it’s a guard away from the Super Bowl and the Patriots are either dead in the water or have found a Thuney replacement, then maybe at the trade deadline the Patriots could swing something.

They shouldn’t be expecting a second-round pick for a Thuney rental at that juncture. But it’s easier to envision a team swallowing Thuney’s $923K per game salary when there are eight games left than right now.

What’s hard to envision is the Patriots being out of contention at the trade deadline and looking to start playing for 2021.

The situation the Patriots are currently facing is unique.

Thuney is the Patriots’ best lineman. They are going to run the hell out of the ball. Legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has retired. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn’s first two seasons have been marred by injury. The fact center David Andrews missed last season with blood clots in his lungs has to give him pause when considering playing this season without a vaccine for COVID-19.

 

Most years, Thuney would be sitting up tall on the trade block right now. This year? I wonder if he’ll even be placed there.