UPDATE (2 p.m. ET): The New England Patriots officially announced Monday they have assigned Joe Thuney the franchise tag.
"Joe has been a model teammate and an essential element to our success since joining our team in 2016," the Patriots said in a statement. "Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach the goal of a long-term agreement."
-- End of update --
The New England Patriots are spending big on Joe Thuney, after all.
The Patriots are planning to use their 2020 franchise tag on Thuney, the offensive guard's agent, Mike McCartney, said Monday on Twitter.
That means Thuney will make roughly $14.8 million in 2020 as one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in the NFL.
It's a surprising move for the typically frugal Patriots, who haven't used the franchise tag on any player since kicker Stephen Gostkowski in 2015.
But Thuney may be worth the investment after being named a second-team All-Pro for a stellar 2019 campaign. The 27-year-old has started in every game for the Patriots over his four-year NFL career to date.
New England still has the option of trading Thuney, but if the team keeps him this season, it's worth wondering whether Bill Belichick will be able to pay Tom Brady the contract he desires in free agency.
Thuney was expected to draw interest from several teams on the free agent market, including the AFC East rival New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.