If the New England Patriots use the franchise tag before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, there is a greater likelihood it will be assigned to kicker Stephen Gostkowski than safety Devin McCourty, according to multiple sources involved in discussions with those involved.
Gostkowski's tag projects to be closer to $4.5 million, while McCourty's would be approximately $9.5 million.
These situations are always fluid, and things can always change in the hours leading up to the tag deadline, but this is the latest information we've learned at this time.
The possibility McCourty heads to unrestricted free agency without restrictions of a franchise tag would create a scenario in which any team could sign him without giving up compensation to the Patriots. If that's the way it unfolds, based on past history, the Patriots would likely keep an open line of communication with McCourty and his representatives by letting them know they're interested in retaining him. McCourty could then decide if the team's offer matches up to what he receives on the open market.
In a year where the free-agent crop at safety is not considered deep, and the draft class is also viewed as thin, McCourty will likely receive considerable interest on the open market if this is the way the scenario unfolds.
On Feb. 25, McCourty said, "I've thought about all different scenarios, whether I'm here or whether I’m somewhere else. At this point, I don’t have a contract, so it could happen that I could be playing somewhere else. It would be crazy not to think that could [happen]."
The Patriots have used the franchise tag on kickers in the past, twice tagging Adam Vinatieri (2002, 2005).