With two candidates and one tag, the New England Patriots are closing in on Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline to franchise either safety Devin McCourty or kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
And while it appears the demand for McCourty would take precedence free agency come March 10, multiple sources tell Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston it is more likely the Patriots apply the tag on Gostkowski, if in fact it is used.
The situation remains fluid, according to Reiss.
McCourty, a 27-year-old defensive captain, onetime Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, would account for approximately $9.5 million in cap space if tagged. Considered the top safety scheduled for unrestricted free agency, a lucrative long-term pact could be on the horizon for the 2010 first-round pick, in Foxborough or elsewhere.
Gostkowski, a 31-year-old second-team All-Pro this past season, would account for approximately $4.5 million in cap space if tagged. Considered the top kicker scheduled for unrestricted free agency, there would be a share of interest on the open market for the 2006 fourth-round pick who earned $2.9 million in base salary during his ninth year in New England.
The Patriots have used the franchise tag eight times since 2002, with Gostkowski’s placekicking predecessor, Adam Vinatieri, designated twice over the final three years of his tenure.