The New England Patriots have some serious work to do in the offseason, as they have just under $5 million in cap space to play with. Bill Belichick may need to make some tough decisions if he wants to keep pace with what has become a very competitive AFC East.
With the Bills a Super Bowl favorite, new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel bringing the San Francisco offense to Miami, and Robert Saleh’s Jets getting tons of assets to play with, New England can’t afford to remain stagnant. They need to keep building around Mac Jones.
While that could mean parting ways with veteran stars like Devin McCourty and choosing against giving JC Jackson a huge contract in free agency, there are ways that New England could get more cap space without being so drastic. All it would take is a few extensions and restructures.
Patriots cap watcher Miguel Benzan said that the best way to create cap space this offseason is to convert a large portion of Matt Judon’s salary into a signing bonus while giving tight end Hunter Henry and punter Jake Bailey new extensions. Doing this helps keep the Patriots strong in all three phases of the game.
Will the New England Patriots extend names like Hunter Henry?
Judon, who signed a four-year, $56 million contract with New England after a very productive career in Baltimore, fit Belichick’s system like a glove. With 12.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl appearance already under his belt, the Patriots need to make sure he gets taken care of.
Henry became one of Jones’ favorite targets, catching 50 passes and scoring nine touchdowns this season.
Belichick clearly favors him over Jonnu Smith, so locking him up for the foreseeable future is a good way to make sure that Jones has his safety blanked locked in.
Bailey was named a First-Team All-Pro punter just a year ago, and he followed that up with a strong season in which he averaged 47.3 yards per punt. Punters very rarely get handed long-term deals due to the nature of the position, but Bailey has proved worthy.
The Patriots need to approach this offseason very judiciously. Making the wrong decision and cutting the wrong player could end up having some catastrophic effects on the squad.
By locking up Henry and freeing up space to chase some of the more important free agents on the market, New England will set itself up for success in the short and long term.