FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 18: Joe Thuney #62 of the New England Patriots waves during training camp at Gillette Stadium on August 18, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney – a much-hyped New York Jets free agent target – is likely to hit the open market.

The NFL’s franchise tag deadline is set for 4 p.m. ET Tuesday afternoon. Yesterday, the New York Jets elected to place the franchise tag on star safety Marcus Maye.

Tuesday morning, some important news was shared regarding the status of an impending free agent who is likely to be at the top of Joe Douglas‘ wishlist: New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Patriots are not expected to use the franchise tag on Thuney. New England franchise-tagged its superstar left guard last year.

Thuney is 28 years old and will turn 29 in November. Since being selected by New England out of North Carolina St. with the 78th overall pick in the third round of the 2016 draft, Thuney has never missed a single regular season or playoff start for the Patriots.

In each of the past four seasons, Thuney ranked among Pro Football Focus’s top-7 highest-graded left guards. He placed No. 5 with a 74.2 overall grade in 2020. Over the past three seasons, Thuney allowed pressure on just 3.1% of his snaps in pass protection, the fourth-best rate among left guards over that span.

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The free-agent guard market was already very thin, with Thuney and Washington’s Brandon Scherff being the only bona fide stars set to hit the market. However, with Scherff being franchise-tagged by Washington, Thuney is left as the only big-ticket option at the position.

The Jets are in dire need of help at the guard position. In 2020, their guards combined to allow a pressure rate of 7.6%, the worst in football.

With the guard spots being such an enormous weakness and Thuney being the only stud available on the open market – boasting consistently elite play and perfect durability – it makes sense to expect that Douglas and the Jets will pursue him extremely aggressively once the legal tampering period opens on March 15.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at] - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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