Training camp kicks off this month in New England and while former tight end Aaron Hernandez sits in a jail cell, his former teammates will be on the practice fields sweating in the summer heat. Forget defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s stomach, the Patriots have some other kind of fat to trim before the season: Wasted money on the team’s salary cap. Despite being almost $9 million under the salary cap at this time, no player is safe when there is the chance that the team can get better value from a less expensive option. Add in that next season sees the Aaron Hernandez dead money escalation at almost $7.5 million on the 2014 salary cap, and the team just may be looking to clear some room now with an eye on 2014.
The Patriots employ a small upper-class of players (Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Jerod Mayo, and Aqib Talib) who have salary cap charges at $5 million in 2013 or more (Talib actually is just under, but it can be rounded up for argument’s sake). Then there is the large middle-class of players on the roster who have cap charges between $3.5 million (Danny Amendola is a pinch over, but, again, can be rounded down for argument’s sake) and $1 million.
The twenty-one players falling into this category include young veterans on team friendly deals (tight end Rob Gronkowski) or older free agents on team-friendly deals (safety Adrian Wilson and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly) or re-signed players identified as valuable in their system (cornerback Kyle Arrington and tackle Sebastian Vollmer), and young players performing on their rookie deals (tackle Nate Solder, defensive end Chandler Jones, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower). These players make up the “value” that is often talked about by coach Bill Belichick. In these players, the team gets production above their relative contact in comparison to players at the same pay grade around the league.
The Patriots head into training camp with five players with a target on their wallets as their performance in training camp must justify their pay in 2013. Two tight ends, two secondary players and a special teams specialist jumped off the New England Patriots salary cap table as being potentially overpaid (thanks as always to the great site, OvertheCap.com). As always with New England, overpaid is not in relation to the rest of the league, but rather in comparison to the rest of the roster. Part one kicks off with the first two players: tight ends Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui.