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What does Tuesday’s franchise tag deadline mean for Patriots?

The deadline for NFL teams to use the franchise tag is at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. That means it’s crunch time for the New England Patriots, if they’re considering using the tag on one of their pending free agents.

There are truly only two realistic options for the Patriots to consider: offensive tackle Mike Onwenu or safety Kyle Dugger.

Neither choice would be cheap.

Tagging Onwenu would cost the team $20.9 million for a guaranteed one-year contract, while keeping Dugger on such a deal would be $17.1 million. Of course, the team would much rather strike up a long-term deal with both players than the one-year placement rental.

Onwenu carries a hefty price tag, but he’s a vital player for the Patriots. His ability to play at both the offensive guard and tackle positions is a rare luxury for a rebuilding team. Keep in mind, Trent Brown is also a free agent this year, and none of the other tackles on the roster have panned out well for the Patriots.

It’s a trouble spot that could turn catastrophic if the team loses both Onwenu and Brown in free agency.

They’d definitely miss Kyle Dugger at safety, but there might be cheaper options in free agency or even the draft to help fill the void. The defense could survive without Dugger, but it’s hard to say the same for the offense without its two starting tackles.

Onwenu recently parted ways with his agency and has opted to represent himself in negotiations, which could make things interesting when it comes to renegotiating a possible extension with the Patriots. Meanwhile, Dugger recently changed agencies.

What happens on Tuesday could have a major impact on the Patriots’ approach in free agency and the 2024 NFL draft.

Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire