The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski Monday. (NFL Game Rewind)

The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Stephen Gostkowski Monday. (NFL Game Rewind)

The New England Patriots announced the use of the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski Monday evening, as Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported.

Gostkowski and free safety Devin McCourty were the two names connected to New England’s tag since the end of the 2014 season. And with the decision coming before the 4 p.m. ET deadline, the latter is now scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent with the start of the new league year March 10.

The 31-year-old Gostkowski, meanwhile, is scheduled to earn $4.59 million, with $4.44 million in salary, a $100,000 offseason bonus and a $50,000 Pro Bowl bonus, per Miguel Benzan of

He is now the second Patriots kicker to be tagged since 2002.

“Stephen has been extremely productive and a vital component to our success since joining our team in 2006,” the organization said in a statement. “Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.”

The franchise’s previous all-time scoring leader, Adam Vinatieri, was tagged twice before departing in free agency in early 2006. It was then, one month later, that New England drafted Gostkowski in the fourth round out of Memphis.

Gostkowski has since garnered three Pro Bowls, a first-team All-Pro and a most recently a second-team All-Pro this past season, after going 35-of-37 on field goals for a Patriots-record 94.5 percent conversion rate.

He is enclosing on the 2015 campaign as the third longest-tenured Patriot.

McCourty, a first-round cornerback via Rutgers in 2010, is just outside the top-10 list. The converted safety and defensive captain is also expected to be among the top-10 available unrestricted free agents in the coming week. But time to exclusively negotiate a long-term deal with New England remains until then, before No. 32 and his representatives are allowed to enter discussions with other teams on March 7.

The 27-year-old McCourty would have received $9.618 million if franchised by the Patriots. He cannot sign with another organization until next Tuesday, providing a deal with his current organization does not come to fruition.