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Patriots Don’t Use Franchise Tag on Flowers

March 6, 2019
New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers celebrates after sacking New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold during a Dec. 30 game in Foxboro. AP PHOTO Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Kevin Duffy

Boston Herald

FOXBORO -- Trey Flowers positioned himself for a massive payday after a dominant 2018 campaign and another New England Patriots Super Bowl.

And the developments of the past few days have sent Flowers’ market soaring even higher.

Star pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, the consensus No. 1 free agent available, was given the franchise tag by the Cowboys. The Texans franchised Jadeveon Clowney. The Chiefs did the same with Dee Ford. And the Seahawks tagged Frank Clark.

But the deadline passed and the Patriots declined to franchise Flowers, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Now arguably the No. 1 defensive end available, Flowers will likely command top dollar when free agency opens on March 13.

The Patriots’ decision to bypass the use of the franchise tag comes as no surprise. After utilizing the tag every year from 2009-12 (on Matt Cassel, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, and Wes Welker), they’ve pulled it only one year since, tagging Stephen Gostkowski in 2015 and eventually coming to an agreement on a long-term deal.

The question now: How high will the Pats be willing to go in their effort to re-sign Flowers?

The franchise tag would have paid Flowers over $17 million in 2019, a figure the Patriots likely deemed too high given the other needs on the roster.

The Pats are operating with approximately $24 million in cap space following the release of tight end Dwayne Allen. Their division rivals, the Jets and Bills, respectively enter free agency with $102 million and $79 million in space, according to OverTheCap.com . They’ve gotten a close look at Flowers throughout the years. Other suitors could include the Dolphins and Lions, which are coached by former Patriots defensive coordinators Brian Flores and Matt Patricia.

Flowers recorded 7.5 sacks a year ago, but contributed in ways that went beyond the box score. He often rushed from an interior position on third downs, absorbing two blockers and creating rushing lanes for teammates. A fourth-round pick out of Arkansas in 2015, Flowers was elevated to a starting role in 2016 following the Patriots’ trade of Chandler Jones. He excelled in three seasons as the starter, helping the Pats to two Super Bowls.

The other tag candidate on the Patriots roster was Gostkowski, who converted 84.4 percent of his field goals this past season, ranking 20th in the league.

The tag would have paid Gostkowski $4.9 million for the 2019 season. The 35-year-old kicker just completed a four-year deal that paid him $17.2 million.