It pains us to say it, but the NFL season is over and New England Patriots fans will have to wait nearly seven months for football to return.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams used a dominant second half performance from their front seven and a clutch showing from Cooper Kupp, who scored the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, to knock off Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals at So-Fi Stadium.
It wasn’t the most exciting Super Bowl, but it was way more entertaining than when the Patriots and Rams locked horns in SB LIII. Of course, New England held LA to a field goal and under 300 yards of offense in a 13-3 snooze fest.
As presently constituted, the Patriots don’t have what it takes to compete for a championship. That’s what makes this offseason so important. With just a few tweaks, this team could be on a level playing field with the NFL’s elite.
However, do Bill Belichick and Co. have the requisite wherewithal to manipulate the salary cap to their benefit? History would suggest the answer is no, which is alarming given teams like the Rams, Chiefs and Saints are masters in that regard.
How have Bill Belichick and the Patriots not mastered manipulating the salary cap yet?
It’s worth noting the Rams’ ring-chasing strategy is incredibly risky. A team ridding itself of future assets in the name of pursuing star talents (Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham Jr., Von Miller, etc.) isn’t always conducive to success.
When you couple the allure of playing in Hollywood with the idea of competing for a Super Bowl, it’s easy to see why so many players were eager to join the Rams. The Patriots don’t exactly have that luxury, but what’s preventing New England from manipulating the cap like Los Angeles, especially when Belichick’s had experience for over 20 years doing this?
Let’s paint it like this. A team whose only true stars are Matt Judon and maybe Hunter Henry should have more than $7.328 million in cap space.
The Rams, meanwhile, have Aaron Donald, Stafford, Kupp, Miller, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth on the payroll for next season and are somehow projected to be just $10 million over the cap for 2022.
That’s not ideal by any stretch, but with some dead caps coming off the books, negotiating a couple of extensions (i.e. Stafford), restructuring some deals — which players will be open to after winning a championship — there’s a pathway for the Rams to not only get under the cap, but create enough wiggle room to re-sign key free agents and make a few more additions to gear up for another run.
All while the Patriots are out here with Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith combining to form a $28,573,513 cap hit for next season. To put that astronomical sum into perspective, Stafford and Donald combined for a $34.392 million cap hit this year.
The bottom line is the cap shouldn’t be as much of a hindrance as it’s been for the Patriots. With teams like the Rams, Chiefs, and Saints making high-profile additions year after year despite being right up against the cap, it’s about time Belichick and New England figure out a way to be more guileful on the cap front.
After all, Tom Brady isn’t walking through that door.