According to Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald, the Patriots extended an exclusive rights free agent tender to Love.
What It Means
The deal, as reported by Rapoport, will earn Love $540,000 in 2012. That's not a lot to pay for a player who was as effective as Love in 2011.
His role in the defense is incredibly important, as his abilities in a two-gap scheme have allowed him to be plugged in at nose tackle to allow Belichick to move nose tackle Vince Wilfork to other spots on the line.
He hasn't played an awful lot, but when he has, he's been incredibly effective. He played just 169 snaps in 2010, but became a much more important part of the defense with 697 snaps (51.4 percent, according to Pro Football Focus) in 2011.
Whether he can continue to be as effective if his role increases remains to be seen, but that could likely be one of the goals of the deal—figure that out and offer him an extension next year based on his ability to step up in a bigger role.
As talented as Love is, locking him up doesn't answer all of New England's questions on the line.
They could use to add another capable five-technique defensive linemen, with Gerard Warren getting older and with Shaun Ellis on his way out after a disappointing season. Red Bryant and Cory Redding are two defensive tackles the Patriots could look into. Both have played in a 4-3 scheme and both have proven capable of soaking up blocks, as would be expected of them in a two-gap defense like the Patriots run.
Love would probably like if the team showed him some love with a long-term deal, but this contract should help them transition into one at some point.