New England Patriots fans have said goodbye to a host of players already this offseason, and even with that, the team is still in a tough spot from a salary cap standpoint. However, Patriots salary cap guru Miguel Benzan says the team could make one major move and it would put them in the free and clear on this front.
Trading Joe Thuney Would Create the Most Cap Space for the Patriots
Benzan isn’t necessarily suggesting this, but he says if the team traded recently franchise-tagged offensive lineman Joe Thuney for a draft pick(s), it would find itself in a better position financially:
However, this trade could come at a serious cost and it would effectively remove one of the few assets left on the team whose name resonates with the fan base.
The Patriots have already lost Tom Brady at QB, and they appear to be ready to turn the reins over to second-year-pro Jarrett Stidham. If Stidham or any other young QB the team might draft this year is the choice at QB, removing one of the few veteran offensive linemen from the roster might be the worst thing to do to a young signal-caller.
Still, it could be tempting to consider if the Patriots believe they can sign a free-agent offensive lineman with something to prove to a one-year deal. The prospects look better if Bill Belichick and Co. also believe they can count on players like Yodny Cajuste to come back strong from an injury in 2019 that cost him his entire rookie season. Finally, New England could also find some help in the draft, perhaps from a prospect like Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland whom the team has been linked to recently.
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Flipping Thuney for high-value draft picks would allow the team to escape most of the $14.7 million coming to the O-lineman, and it could jumpstart what could be a rebuilding effort. There are less-drastic options that could still allow the Patriots to keep Thuney.
A Joe Thuney Extension Would Create Some Cap Room
Simply signing Thuney to an extension rather than keeping him under the franchise tag would also clear up the cap room. It wouldn’t make as much room as moving him for picks, but at the very least, Thuney remains happy and with the team, and the Patriots would still have created some operating space under the cap.
Thuney was the team’s best offensive lineman in 2019, and if the team hadn’t franchise tagged him, it is believed he would have commanded an annual salary in the area of $15 million. Because the four-year veteran is still just 27 years old, and he’s never missed a game since arriving in the NFL from North Carolina State, he would appear to be the kind of player worth investing in for the long term.