The Patriots have until Feb. 28 to decide what tender offer to place on DL Mike Wright, their top restricted free agent.
As a restricted free agent, Wright can still visit with other clubs and sign an offer sheet, but the Patriots have the right to match the offer. This is similar to WR Wes Welker's situation last year with the Dolphins.
When it comes to restricted free agency, the first part of the process is teams deciding which tender offer to place on the player -- minimum, second-round, first-round or first/third-round.
The level of the tender offer determines the compensation the team would receive if the player signs an offer sheet with another team, and that offer sheet is not matched. A minimum tender yields a draft pick that matches the round in which the player entered the NFL.
Welker, for example, was tendered at the second-round level last year. Had the Dolphins tendered Welker at the first-round or first/third-round level, it is possible the Patriots' interest wouldn't have been as intense.
As for Wright, who was No. 5 on the defensive-line depth chart before his season ended Dec. 13 due a foot injury, the likely tender options are minimum ($927,000) or second-round ($1.41 million). His situation is similar to that of CB Randall Gay last year.
If the Patriots tender Wright at the minimum level -- which they probably feel is closer to his value -- they run the risk of losing him without receiving compensation because, like Gay, he entered the NFL as a free agent.
That's why, barring the possibility of reaching a contract extension with Wright, the Patriots will likely place the second-round tender on him.