It’s free agent time around the NFL, and like most years, the New England Patriots have stayed rather quiet in terms of signing players, while other teams, namely the Broncos are out making big splashes, and signing players to big numbers. Looking at the Patriots salary cap, they are pretty limited, and while they could make a couple moves to change that for this year, the real value lies in their 2015 salary cap, and beyond.
First let’s look at the money the New England Patriots will have at the start of free agency next year. Right now, the Patriots only have about $92,000,000 in committed money next year, meaning they have already about $47,000,000 in cap space. The dead money that the Patriots owe will also disappear, which means that Aaron Hernandez’s bit hit, shall come off the books for the most part. That’s nearly $7.5 million in total space created right there. Figure in a $10-15 million jump in the salary cap that is predicted for next year, and the Patriots already have upwards of $60,000,000 in space. That’s a lot of money to work with, but before you go and start thinking about all the nice free agent the Patriots will spend that bucket load of cash on, keep in mind, extensions for key players on the Patriots must come first, so let’s look at that next.
I have come up with five essential players that the New England Patriots must get around to extending sometime this year, or during the period leading up to free agency after next year’s Super Bowl. Those players are as follows: Devin McCourty, Nate Solder, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Stephen Gostkowski. So let’s give them some deal shall we? McCourty has already proven himself to be among the very elite safeties in football these past two years, so he’s going to expect a hefty contract, with about five years total. My approximate breakdown of his contract would be: five years, $35 million, coming out to be a $7 million average cap hit, but we’d say it’s about only $4 million his first year. Solder would also want a near elite contract, considering he’s become one of the league’s very best young left tackles. His contract breakdown could be as such: five years, $45 million, a $9 million average cap hit, which would come out to be about $6 million let’s say in his first year. Let’s look at the running backs next, Vereen and Ridley. Drafted together they should get about the same contract. My guess would be for both: four years, $17 million a piece, about a $4 million average cap hit, which would be about $3.5 million the first year. Finally, Stephen Gostkowski is an essential to lock up considering how good he’s been. His contract could come out as such: four years, $11 million at an average of almost $3 million per year, and a first year hit of $2 million.
So all in all, that comes out to be about $20 million in spending, dropping them down to about $40 million in total cap space for the 2015 season. However, we’re not done just yet, we need to make a couple logical cuts to give a bit more cap room. Let’s start with the obvious ones, guys who might be cut this season. These two players are DT Isaac Sopoaga and SS Adrian Wilson. Combined, their cuts would total about $5.3 million in total cap space for the 2015 season. The next cut might be a bit of a shocker, but it’s longtime LG Logan Mankins. Mankins has been a candidate to have his contract restructured for a while now, but according to reports from Patriots sources, he will not restructure it. This leaves him as a candidate to be released next offseason, totalling a whopping $11 million in cap space created. So add those two together, and you have an extra $16.3 million in space created, totalling $53 million in space total.
So what this means is that the New England Patriots can take on some large contracts for next season, and take the hit with relative ease. So that means a guy like Darrelle Revis could realistically come in via cut or trade, and the Patriots could swallow his contract, and still have about$35-43 million more in space. Of course, you can’t spend all of this money on free agents afterward, because guys like Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower and Alfonzo Dennard are going to be free agents in 2016, but you still have plenty of money to spend, and improve your team if your Bill Belichick.
This has always been the New England Patriots plan, have cap flexibility, while also being able to lock of their young stars. While some Patriots fans might complain that this team never does anything to improve, they have to realize that it’s more important locking up these young, core players than it is spending big money on risky free agents.
My sources for this piece were Over the Cap’s Salary Cap Calculator to figure out the Patriots cap space, which can be found here, and I also used Sportrac to find which players had contracts coming up in the 2015 season, which can be found here.