Aside from veteran quarterback Tom Brady, the New England Patriots would also have to negotiate with their other players who are also turning free agents on March 18. Among them are guard Joe Thuney, safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Ryan Hannable of WEEI Radio reported that the Patriots are planning to use the franchise tag on Thuney, who is expected to command a huge deal from the free-agent market after making it to the Second Team All-Pro. If the Patriots use the franchise tag worth $16 million on Thuney, Hannable said the team might think they will overpay for the offensive lineman’s services.

Also, Hannable said the Patriots need enough salary cap space to retain key pieces as much as possible, primarily the 42-year-old Brady. According to Mark Daniels of The Providence Journal, the Patriots are interested in keeping McCourty, who has been one of their captains since 2011. Daniels said there’s a “mutual interest” between the safety and the Patriots and they are set to meet in the near future to discuss terms on a new deal

Minimal discussion between Van Noy, Patriots

As for Van Noy, Henry McKenna of USA Today reported that there were minimal discussions between the linebacker and the Patriots and they had no talks during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Mike Reiss of ESPN said that the Patriots would probably allow Van Noy to test the free-agency market and determine what he could get while keeping an open dialogue throughout the process.

It is expected that Van Noy could get a huge offer from the free-agency market that could entice him to leave New England. As for Dorsett, Zach Cox of New England Sports Network (NESN) said that the wide receiver is unlikely to re-sign with the Patriots. Cox said Dorsett’s camp met with several teams interested in his services during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Dolphins interested in Thuney, McCourty

If McCourty and Thuney enter free agency, expect the Miami Dolphins to pursue them, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jackson said that the Dolphins hold Thuney in high regard and could contact the guard when free agency begins on March 18. Jackson said the Dolphins have some degree of interest in McCourty and he wouldn’t be surprised if Miami also goes after Van Noy and Danny Shelton.

Earlier, it was reported that the New Orleans Saints plan to pursue Collins after his impressive season.

Patriots to exercise option on Jason McCourty’s deal

The Patriots would be keeping their cornerback roster intact as they plan to exercise the team option in the contract of veteran Jason McCourty, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. In a report by Zack Cox of New England Sports Network (NESN), Rapoport said McCourty would earn around $4 million next season. If the Patriots decline, they could have freed around $3.75 million in cap space, but with dead money of around $1.75 million. With McCourty set to return, the Patriots’ cornerback roster remains intact. Aside from McCourty, the Patriots have Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams and Lenzy Pipkins under contract through 2020 or beyond.