- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Starting interior defensive lineman Kyle Love, who enters his third NFL season in 2012, has received an exclusive rights free-agent tender from the Patriots today, according to a source.
This is more of a paperwork transaction. There was no way the Patriots were not going to tender Love, who rose from 13 percent playtime in 2010 to 50 percent in 2011, but it is notable nonetheless.
Not tendering Love would have made him a free agent who could sign with another team. The Patriots obviously want Love, who beat out Albert Haynesworth and Ron Brace as a sidekick to Vince Wilfork in 2011, as part of their future.
The next step in the process will be if Love, who entered the NFL as a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State in 2010, wants some immediate security in the form of a minor extension that would carry through 2013.
Love's agents, Richard Kopelman and Sean Stellato of KLASS Sports, executed a similar type of extension for cornerback Kyle Arrington and linebacker Gary Guyton when they were exclusive rights free agents. Those deals are sometimes attractive to players because they get some up-front money in the form of a signing bonus, and the return is that they give up their restricted free-agent status the following year.
Either way, Love figures to be in the team's plans for at least the next two years.