Why are the New England Patriots paying an offensive guard nearly $15 million in 2020?
Some believe the answer involves their division rival.
Joe Thuney and the Patriots didn't agree to a long-term contract extension before Wednesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, meaning he'll play the 2020 season on New England's $14.78 million franchise tag.
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After Wednesday's deadline passed, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal shared this interesting tidbit about why the Patriots may have tagged Thuney in the first place:
There is some belief that the Jets' reported interest in Thuney helped inspire Bill Belichick to keep him off the market.
For context: Reports surfaced on March 16 that the AFC East rival New York Jets were expected to pursue Thuney in unrestricted free agency, which began March 18.
Later on March 16, the Patriots announced they had placed the franchise tag on Thuney, ensuring he'd stay in New England in 2020 rather than hit free agency.
That timing could be a coincidence -- or perhaps Belichick didn't want to see another player go to a division opponent after center Ted Karras and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts signed with the Miami Dolphins earlier in the offseason. (Belichick also has a history with New York, where he famously resigned as "HC of the NYJ" before coming to New England in 2000.)
As our Phil Perry explained Wednesday, the Patriots have plenty of rational reasons to keep Thuney beyond spiting their rival. New England also has the option of trading the 27-year-old, who earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2019 and is the team's second-highest-paid player.
But don't count out the Jets factor.