The New England Patriots placed tender offers on their three restricted free agents Thursday, assigning the first- and third-round tender to Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, the second-round tender to kicker Stephen Gostkowski and the low tender to outside linebacker Pierre Woods.
By placing a tender on a restricted free agent, a team establishes the compensation it would receive if the player is signed to an offer sheet by another team and that offer wasn't matched.
In the case of Mankins, the Patriots chose the richest possible option. That tender is worth $3.26 million on a one-year term. That level of tender makes it highly unlikely another team would pursue Mankins because that team wouldn't want to give up first- and third-round draft picks.
Gostkowski's tender is for $1.75 million. If a team signed him to an offer sheet, and it wasn't matched, the Patriots would receive a second-round pick. It's unlikely another team would be willing to do that for a kicker.
If there was a mild surprise, it was with Woods, who tied for the team lead in special teams tackles. The Patriots tendered him at the low level, which means another team could sign him to an offer sheet and if the Patriots did not match they would not receive any draft-pick compensation because Woods entered the league as a rookie free agent.
In other Patriots news, the team released tight end Chris Baker on Thursday in a surprising move. Baker was signed as a free-agent last offseason, and he finished with 14 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns in 2009, with his primary impact coming as a blocker. With fellow tight end Benjamin Watson scheduled for unrestricted free agency, the Patriots have a considerable void to fill at the position. The only two tight ends presently on the roster are Rob Myers and Robbie Agnone, with zero games of NFL experience between them.
Baker's contract had extended through 2013, although there was a significant bonus prior to the 2011 season that essentially made it a two-year deal.
The Patriots are also operating without an official tight ends coach at this time, so this is a spot where there figures to be significant turnover in 2010.
As expected, linebacker Gary Guyton received a tender offer from the Patriots at the minimum level required for an exclusive rights free agent.
Guyton's contract expires Thursday, but as an exclusive rights free agent he is not free to negotiate with other clubs. By tendering him, the Patriots ensure that the third-year veteran will return to the team in 2010.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.