Patriots: Huge amount of dead cap this year is kind of a travesty

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches Cam Newton #1 (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches Cam Newton #1 (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots made one of the more seismic trades of the 2021 NFL season, as they decided to part with an All-Pro cornerback and former Defensive Player of the Year in Stephon Gilmore by sending him to the Carolina Panthers for what will likely end up as a meaningless 2023 sixth-round pick.

Part of the reason Bill Belichick and the Patriots were unable to retain Gilmore was due to the financial side of things, as their unwillingness to give him the multi-year contract he was seeking put a fork in his chances of patching things up with him … even after spending a ton of money in free agency.

They had the capital to take care of Gilmore.

New England not only spent aggressively this offseason, but they’ve also kind of carelessly acquired a ton of dead cap along the way, which could make it tough to retain impending free agents, sign new players mid-season, or acquire players via trade.

The Patriots are saddled with almost $17 million in dead cap this season.

The release of Cam Newton and the trade of Marcus Cannon account for a good chunk of that money, while the retirements of Julian Edelman and Patrick Chung are eating up a nice $6 million.

The Patriots have shouldered a ton of dead cap.

Part of the downside with going for it as a championship team is that financial hardships are almost always pushed down the road with the aim of getting more contributors here and now. Those chickens are coming home to roost this season, as the Patriots are paying these seven slightly less than the Bills are paying Tre’Davious White in 2021.

The release of Newton may have had to happen if the Patriots were committed to Mac Jones, but New England seems to have undertaken even more financial hardship to make that move happen. Belichick’s work as a general manager, specifically as it relates to cap management, has been questionable of late.

Despite his age and injury, Gilmore is one of the best players in the league at his position, and we have already seen years of tangible evidence that shows a defensive backfield led by Gilmore and JC Jackson can help New England win convincingly. Instead, Gilmore ended up in Carolina and the Pats got stuck with a less than enviable cap situation.

The Pats have danced out of cap danger before, but the sizable chunk of dead money will hang onto this roster like a leech until the end of the season. How this impacts the win-loss record remains to be seen, but don’t expect there to be much in-season flexibility.