New England Patriots: Players the Pats can move on from to clear cap space

The renaissance in Foxborough requires remaking the roster, and these moves will help

Aug 8, 2015; Canton, OH, USA; Ron Wolf (right) poses with bust and son and presenter Eliot Wolf
Aug 8, 2015; Canton, OH, USA; Ron Wolf (right) poses with bust and son and presenter Eliot Wolf / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's a new regime and dynamic in Foxborough—the old left with Tom Brady in 2020. Now, with the departure of Bill Belichick, everything is evolving, and change is the name of the game with the New England Patriots. We already have a new head Coach, Jerod Mayo, who's started brilliantly. Eliot Wolf also assumes the de facto general managership.

So now the focus turns to players. The draft in April will be a critical one for the Patriots, with their highest pick since 1993. They hold the third overall pick in 2024. It's incumbent on the Pats and Mr. Wolf to crush this draft. Anything short of that will be disappointing. But elsewhere, there are decisions to be made to clear cap space for the introduction of new and better players to Foxborough generally.

Here, we'll look at the low-hanging fruit: players with whom the team can part ways and who can clear even more cap space than is already available, reportedly a handsome sum of around $67M to $69M. Let's look at who may go in this mammoth reshuffling of the New England Patriots from top to bottom.

On offense the Pats can part ways with these players

Offensively, there's not much available besides free agents who'll likely be allowed to leave town. These include Trent Brown, Mike Gesicki, probably Ezekiel Elliot, and maybe even Hunter Henry. Dead cap hits on two duds, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and DeVante Parker, making their departures prohibitive, barring trades of some sort.

Parting ways with four offensive tackles, Calvin Anderson, Conor McDermott, Vederian Lowe, and Andrew Steuber, would save about $4M on the cap. The new GM, Eliot Wolf, should easily make these decisions. All three can be easily replaced.

Wide receivers Kayshon Boutte and T.J. Luther(?), along with running back Kevin Harris, would free up about $2.5M, and they can be supplanted without much dismay. All told, just with these players, the Pats can save over $6M on the cap and be none the worse for wear. They are no-brainers.

All are waiver-wire-level players, and they can be equaled or bettered for less money in undrafted free agency (UDFA) or elsewhere on NFL cut sheets.

Players on defense who can go

New Head Coach Jerod Mayo will have a good handle on who'll stay and who'll go among the Pats' defensive players. Top of the list is J.C. Jackson, who'll cost more than $14M on the cap with no cap hit. He's on the way out. Adrian Phillips would save almost $2M on the cap and should also go.

The defensive line is another place that can be pared down to glean cap space. A considerable gain could be had by cutting Davon Godchaux, a mediocre talent at best. The savings aren't slight, though; cutting ties would add a whopping $8m or so on the cap. He should be one of the first to go. Lawrence Guy isn't the player he used to be, and letting him leave (maybe for a coaching role on the Pats?) would save about $2.5M on the cap. Altogether, more than $10M saved can be allocated to a top defensive or other player.

Cutting safety Adrian Phillips would also save upwards of $3M. Brooming defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale would save about $1.5M. Cutting Raekwon McMillan would save about $1.25M, and letting defensive tackle Sam Roberts go would save more than $900,000 on the cap.

These are just some of the Patriot players with whom, if the team cuts ties, there'd be no significant drop-off in play on either side of the ball. If the team is truly heading in a new direction, it should do so with new players and retain only the very best performers from the past regime.

Eliot Wolf is on the hot seat. He's the de facto boss, and evidently, it will be his job to do what's necessary to make the Patriots a Super Bowl contender again. That begins with cutting ties with sub-par players, adding top free agents with the cash available, and drafting well.

Is Wolf up to the task? We'll see in the next two and a half months. One thing is certain: it's all done in the offseason. All of it. That's when great or even good teams are built. The draft, free agency, and even undrafted free agency will make or break a team in any NFL season. If you get it right on much of it, you have a chance. If not, you'll wind up like the 2023 New England Patriots in the basement.

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