With the trade deadline approaching, New England has a decision to make. Will they be buyers or sellers? That Patriots playoff hopes aren’t exactly looking promising after falling to 2-4. However, even if they decide not to be sellers, they should still field offers for Joe Thuney.
With the emergence of young offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, the Patriots now have the Joe Thuney replacement they lacked when they decided to franchise tag Thuney back in March. Now that Onwenu is in the fold, Thuney is almost expendable. At the very least, the Patriots can feel more comfortable moving Thuney than they could have throughout the offseason before Onwenu proved to be so talented. The impressive play of the rookie from Michigan almost guarentees Thuney won’t be back in a Patriots uniform next season. So, logically, Bill Belichick should look to maximize the asset.
The calculation the Patriots have to make is what they deem about half a season of Joe Thuney worth. If they let him walk in free agency, they can expect to get a 2022 3rd round compensatory pick. Is upgrading that to a 2nd round pick in 2021 worth moving on from Thuney with a small chance at making the playoffs still hanging in the balance?
There aren’t many obvious trade partners for the Patriots and Thuney. The Eagles could make some sense, but it’s unclear whether they want to invest in their team this season with their poor record. Their division certainly gives them some hope, but it’s a risky gamble to give up even a 2nd round pick that could fall in the 30s or early 40s if they miss the playoffs. Philadelphia is the only team with a chance to contend that makes sense for Thuney and has ample cap space to absorb the remainder of his contract. Other teams may be able to just barely squeeze Thuney’s remaining salary in like the Titans or Bears, but it’d be a lot harder. The Seahawks have pretty much no chance of creating the necessary cap space.
If the Patriots don’t want to move on from Thuney, they could decide to keep Michael Onwenu at right tackle, which he played on Sunday against the 49ers. Onwenu had his worst game as a pro, giving up his first career sack and allowing another pressure on Newton. He’s played much better at his natural position of guard. He had been one of the most highly regarded rookies in the NFL over the first six weeks. They could have a real star on their hands, but tackle probably isn’t his long-term position. The Patriots could be better served to move on from Thuney now and get Onwenu more reps at left guard, which he’ll likely play moving forward in his Patriots career. The best move the Patriots can make for the team is to move on from players who are unlikely to help the team next season and Thuney is in that group.
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