New England Patriots decline fifth-year options on three players


The New England Patriots have declined the fifth-year options on Phillip Dorsett, Malcom Brown, and Danny Shelton.

The New England Patriots have opted to forego the fifth-year options on three of its players, including the recently acquired defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Malcom Brown, defensive tackle, and Phillip Dorsett, wide receiver, were also informed that their options would not be picked up.

In a sense, the Patriots rent a player for a year to see how things play out. The team picks up a contract near its end for cheap to see how the player does. Near the end of the contract, the team declines the option and the player hits free agency looking for a payday.

When the market doesn’t meet the player’s expectations, the Patriots offer something more in line with their expectations and are occasionally able to re-sign the player. Sometimes this strategy works (as it did for Julian Edelman) and sometimes it doesn’t.

Young defensive tackles look to put on a show

Well for starters, Shelton hasn’t even started playing yet. His impact on the team remains to be seen, but everyone in New England seemed pretty enthusiastic about bringing him over. Alan Branch is gone, so the best defensive tackle on the team right now is Lawrence Guy. Vincent Valentine spent most of last season injured, which leaves Brown and Adam Butler in the rotation. Two years into his career, Shelton has recorded 128 total tackles and just 1.5 sacks.

It’s still too early to tell if Shelton will have a drastic impact on defense, but then anything’s an upgrade over Branch after his dismal season last year. If Shelton proves his worth, it’s possible that he and the Patriots will reach a long-term deal before next year’s free agency period.

The Patriots drafted Brown in 2015, and he’s done well for them. In addition to helping the team reach back-to-back Super Bowls, Brown has recorded 8.5 sacks in 147 tackles and recovered two fumbles in his short career.

Brown’s been a solid contributor to the defense, but the Patriots may be willing to let him test free agency in 2019. The other possibility is that the Patriots are planning to propose a more cap-friendly option, whose fifth-year option would take a $7-million bite out of the cap next year.

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Like Shelton, if he can prove himself in 2018, the door for a long-term contract is open. Right now it appears that Shelton and Brown will be competing – not only to keep the Patriots interested but to show off their value to prospective bidders next year.

Crowded depth chart leaves little room for extra receivers

As for Dorsett, he’s the odd man out. Wide receivers just aren’t as “in need” as defensive positions in New England, and the Patriots depth chart at wide receiver is stacked this year.

The Patriots lost both Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, but 2018 will see the return of both Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell. Those two, as well as Chris Hogan, are practical locks for the 53-man roster.

Braxton Berrios may very well be the second-coming of Amendola, so count him in as well. The Patriots also brought on Jordan Matthews and have already picked up Kenny Britt‘s second-year option. That doesn’t mean Britt is 100% safe though. Dorsett’s skill set makes him the more likely candidate to fill the sixth wide receiver spot.

Additionally, the team’s highest-paid receiver right now is Edelman, who earns $4.2 million. While Dorsett’s poor performance last year is hard to pin solely on him – it’s practically impossible for any player to pick up the Patriots style that late in the season – but the salary he’ll likely be looking for is far beyond what New England will be looking to pay.

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Even if Dorsett has an explosive 2018, it seems unlikely that the Patriots sign him to a long-term deal.