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Stephen Gostkowski signs Pats' franchise tag tender

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The New England Patriots used their 2015 franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The Pats locked down the kicker with a $4.58 million tag (120 percent of 2014 cap), the team announced Monday. Gostkowski signed that tender, NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Friday, making him the highest-paid kicker in the league.

The development is big in how it affects the future of safety Devin McCourty, who many pegged as possibly getting tagged to ensure that the pivotal defensive piece would remain in New England.

The Patriots have a few days to get a long-term deal with McCourty before he hits the open market on March 10. With a dearth of safeties in the draft and the ones hitting free agency, McCourty could be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. It would be a big blow to the Pats' defense if McCourty defects.

Tagging a kicker is nothing new for New England. They previously tagged Adam Vinatieri twice during his Patriots career before the franchise turned the job over to Gostkowski.

New England can now work on a long-term deal with one of the NFL's best kickers until the July 15 deadline.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the annual "Top 101 free agents" list and discusses the latest in league news. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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