How much Patriots would need to pay to put franchise tag on Dugger, Onwenu

How much Patriots would need to pay to put franchise tag on Dugger, Onwenu originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots have some major decisions to make in the coming weeks with some of their own free agents, most notably offensive tackle Michael Onwenu and safety Kyle Dugger.

These are two homegrown players the Patriots drafted and developed. Each of them has made a major impact on the team's success over the last four seasons.

If the Patriots aren't able to work out contract extensions with Dugger and/or Onwenu, another way to retain them for at least another season is by using the franchise tag.

Doing so is expensive, though, and on Friday the NFL revealed the official franchise tag salaries for each position.

It would cost the Patriots around $21 million to tag Onwenu and around $17.1 million to tag Dugger.

Onwenu plays a vital position and one in which the Patriots don't have much high-end talent or depth. Veteran offensive tackle Trent Brown is expected to test free agency. If the Patriots lost both Brown and Onwenu, they'd be in real trouble at the tackle position. Onwenu has not only performed at a high level in his career, he's done so by playing multiple positions, including tackle and guard. He's a talented, versatile player in the prime of his career.

Dugger has emerged as one of the best players on the Patriots defense and a real leader for that group. And the Patriots defense has been the strength of the team since Tom Brady departed in 2020. However, for a team like the Patriots that has so many glaring roster weaknesses, especially on offense, is paying $17 million for a safety a luxury or a necessity? It's probably a luxury, unless they're able to work out a long-term deal with Dugger.

The good news for the Patriots is that they should have around $82.9 million in salary cap space this offseason, per OverTheCap. They can pay Onwenu or Dugger and still have enough cap space to make other substantial roster upgrades.