Arbella Early Edition

Should Pats franchise tag Onwenu? Ted Johnson and Mike Giardi weigh in

Mike Onwenu and Kyle Dugger are the Patriots' top franchise tag candidates this offseason.

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The NFL's franchise tag window officially opened on Tuesday. For the New England Patriots, two players stand out as candidates to be tagged before the March 5 deadline.

There are arguments to be made for safety Kyle Dugger and offensive lineman Mike Onwenu. Both players have been bright spots for New England over the last four seasons. Losing either one in free agency would be difficult for the Patriots to swallow.

If he has to choose one, though, former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson is keeping Onwenu. He explained why on Tuesday's episode of Arbella Early Edition.

"That's a guy I don't want getting away," Johnson said of Onwenu. "Kyle Dugger obviously is a hell of a player, but the importance of protecting a young quarterback. Mike Onwenu, who's been brilliant -- I mean, you won't hear his name ever and that's because all he does is he does his job. That's the one guy that I would consider putting a franchise tag, would be Mike Onwenu."

Giardi agreed with Johnson's pick, noting New England missed its chance to sign Onwenu to a cheaper long-term contract last offseason.

"This thing should have been done with him last year. There should've been a long-term extension done," Giardi said. "They could have gotten it done at guard numbers, now he played tackle for you, now that whole thing has been measured into the equation. I think he still wants to play guard, but I think his agent's telling him, 'Look, man, tell them you're playing tackle. That's where the money's at.'

"And if I'm the Patriots, I tag him. I'm not letting him walk out the door. Too many problems with the offensive line. I want certainty with him. I know I've got it with him. Whether he's playing guard or tackle, I know he's a damn good player. Is it an overpay? Yes. But guess what? You put yourself in this position the way the offensive line looks. So guess what? This is what you've got to do."

Onwenu's impending free agency couldn't have come at a worse time for the Patriots. Their offensive line was a major contributor to their struggles throughout the 2023 season and is among the team's biggest needs heading into the spring. Even after tagging Onwenu, the Patriots would have their work cut out for them building a competent o-line while finding a quarterback and weapons to surround him with.

New England is expected to be active when free agency opens on March 13. The team will have a chance to find the next face of the franchise during the 2024 NFL Draft, where it's scheduled to pick third overall.

You can watch Johnson and Giardi's full "Early Edition" segment below, or on YouTube:

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