2013 Patriots Off-Season: Salary Cap Situation

Wes Welker

Will the salary cap allow Wes Welker to don a Patriots uniform in 2013?

NEPD Editor: James Christensen

It seems that few teams have been able to master the NFL salary cap like the New England Patriots. Sustaining success over a decade without having to blow things up.

Other teams haven’t been so lucky. The New York Jets for example, are currently looking at a $19+ million deficit after a 6-10 season.

What do the Patriots have to work with in 2013?


After carrying over $5 million from the 2012 salary cap, the Patriots have between $16-18 million in room, depending on who runs the calculations. NYJetsCap.com, for example, has the Patriots closer to $16 million, while John Clayton of ESPN.com has them over $18 million.

With their picks in the 2013 NFL Draft the Patriots will accrue about $3.5 million in cap charges, although I’m sure that will change with the inevitable draft-day trades.

That leaves the Patriots with around $13-$15 million in room to re-sign or tender current players and target other teams’ free agents.


The Patriots have three key players that will hit unrestricted free agency this March if they aren’t re-signed: Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib. You could also add Julian Edelman and Kyle Arrington to that list, although their price tags shouldn’t be nearly as high.

With Tom Brady’s $21+ million cap charge looming over the Patriots in both 2013 and 2014, the Patriots are a bit hamstrung with what they can do. They can squeeze a few dollars out of Tom’s contract again if they extend him again, but it remains to be seen if they will commit to Brady into his 40’s.

Add Jonathan Fanene and Chad Johnson’s dead money – over $4 million this year, although it remains to be seen if the Patriots can recoup any of Fanene’s bonus – and things don’t look pretty. As it currently stands, the Patriots might be hard-pressed to sign two of their big names, let alone three, if the players want to push for maximum value.

Welker stands to earn over $11 million if he receives the franchise tag again, which would realistically end all hopes of signing the other two players. However, if they can minimize his cap hit in 2013 with some creative bonus structures, the Patriots could conceivably sign both Welker and one other of the key free agents.

If the Patriots want to get all three under contract, without a big concession from one of the three players in question, the Patriots front office is going to need to look at some restructuring. Luckily, that might not be a big problem.


Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork both signed hefty extensions recently. Wilfork has two years remaining on his deal, while Mankins still has four.

The Patriots would be able to guarantee the 2013 salary for each player, thus converting them to signing bonuses when it comes to cap charges. Signing bonuses can be amortized over the remaining years of the contract, thus buying some room for New England.

When all is said and done, the Patriots could free up about $7 million by a simple reconstruction of each player’s contract – pushing more of a cap hit into 2014 and beyond – where the salary cap should start growing again.

There aren’t many cuts that would make sense – or cap room – for the Patriots. Spencer Larsen (750k) and Daniel Fells ($1m) are two possibilities, but their replacements aren’t going to be much cheaper.

If Belichick, Caserio and company can squeeze $7 million out of Wilfork and Mankins’ contracts while being frugal elsewhere, the Patriots have a real chance at re-signing all three major free agents this off-season.

Your turn – rank the three free agents in order of priority. Who would you sign first?

Thanks to the guys at Rotoworld for their excellent contract database.

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21 Responses to “2013 Patriots Off-Season: Salary Cap Situation”

  1. Dave says:

    Being creative and carrying cap space over to 2014 would be nice. But there is already a high cap figure of $105 mil with only 37 signed players. The Pats will be in cap hell 2014.

  2. Brian H says:

    1. Vollmer – that’s it.

    Talib will want too much and that’s not the NE M.O. (I dont like it)
    Welker is not worth that $$, not in the Pats’ line of thinking. (I dont like it)

    So sign another CB instead, and sign-and-trade WW for a 2nd and 4th or along that line.

    Use the $$, plus Wilfork and Mankins restructuring, to sign a vet SS (Landry?), a vet WR (like Jennings but will want too much, Hartline?), and 1-2 CBs for less than AT (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? Cary Williams / Derek Cox?), and TE Dustin Keller.

    Trade down and draft another SS (Philip Thomas in 3rd?) and another WR or 2 (Robert Woods in 2nd, Aaron Dobson in 2nd/3rd?) and a young stud interior OL like Barrett Jones (2nd). They typically draft twice for an area in the same draft (recently TE, LB, RB) and it seems to work. Would not be surprised to see 2 WRs and 2 OLs.

    DO NOT (EVER) draft another CB. Wheatley / Wilhite / Butler / Dowling. Nuff said.

    You paid the 2 young TE’s for a reason: they are now the focal point of the offense. Commit even more to that running game, hope for the best with Edelman and Demps as WW’s copycat, and adding Ballard and some other vets and rookie WR s/b good enough.

  3. Kerri says:

    New England has to draft a big WR. The small wide outs are not good enough, we need to get bigger because the ravens took away short passes and our offense could only manage 13 points. They didn’t have a deep threat to take it deep so it allowed the ravens to stop the short passes therefore stopping the offense. They need a big big wide out. They can get one in the draft so they won’t take a huge hit in the salary cap. Talib is a must sign because if they sign Ed Reed in free agency, the patriots would finally have a solid secondary.

    • CJ says:

      I think they are doing fine with the offense they have. They accumulated the third most points in the history of the league this past season. Focus on the defense. Brady can do magic with the offense he has currently. He’s always been great at making no names shine.

      • Alex says:

        We struggle against team that can drop 7 or 8 in coverage, and press our outside receivers, and double up in the middle, while still getting pressure on Brady.
        Now there aren’t many teams that can do that, but unfortunately the good ones can.
        There’s no need to rip the O up and start again, but keep Vollmer, shift Cannon to RG, have Gronk back and Ballard, try and keep Wes or Edelman, and add a big strong WR or two, along with Demps as a gadget player, and an ever maturing and improving RB core, and we will be hard to slow down offensively.

        Spend the rest on D, except maybe a 5th round or later OT prospect.

  4. acm says:

    restructuring some contracts – Mankns would probably be first in line – would be of great help to solving cap issues this year.
    Would like all 3 of the big FA back but don’t think the Pats should F-Tag Welker. Considering the lack of top CBs in free agency, cap-space permitting, I would try finding 2 safeties there, draft a CB and f-tag Talib … as opposed to try signing talib to a bigger, permanent contract and draft a safety and a CB.

  5. russell easterbrooks says:

    Patriots just resigned Dane Fletcher LB who was on the DL last year.

  6. The Pats O line including Vollmer had a very good year with only 17 penaltis called on them. The “Stop Gap” RG and C had 1 and 0 called on them. The other parts of the line Vollmer and Solder had 5 and Mankins had 4 so tell me how they are “Stop Gap” players. If Wendell is only a “Stop Gap” player how did he beat out the 10 year sarter now starting for Denver for the Job.

  7. Ryan Collins says:

    1.) Talib. He’s the best available FA at CB, we already know he has success in our system, WHY would you ever want to look elsewhere to fix our need at CB. Talib is #1.

    2.) Welker. Welker is Brady’s binkie, for god sake don’t take away Brady’s binkie. Welker is the best slot receiver in the NFL regardless of his age, and this offense runs though him. A viable replacement for Welker in the Patriots offense, is the 3rd biggest mythological creature right behind Bigfoot and Unicorns. Sign Welker.

    3.) Vollomer is the best RG in football WHEN HEALTHY. I want Vollomer back but why spend guaranteed money on a guy you can’t guarantee is going to be healthy. Also, Scarnecchia has shown to be a genius at offensive line coach, who would have thought Wendell would have had such a great season? and Marcus Zusevicks, looks like a great talent already on the roster, I don’t want to cut ties with any of these 3, but if you have to do it somewhere, do it with vollomer.

  8. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I think Vollmer will sign a contract at lesser than market because of his injury’s, to stay a Patriot, 3 years tops. Draft a OG/T this year to start to work into the system. Cannon, is a back-up Draft a player that will be a starter at OG or OT in the future. OG/T Bain Winters
    Talib has not shown much playing time in only a few games, and being injured. OFFER a Contract that works for the Patriots, and let him go if he gets more money. Draft a CB, Poyer, Slay, etc.
    OFFER Welker a contract that will work for the Patriots, and let him go if he wants more money. Sign Edelman, draft a WR, later in the draft, Swopes, Conner Vernon, etc. This is an area we need to get younger, for the teams future, ANY WAY!
    IT IS VERY IMPORTANT WE OFFER A CONTRACT TO Talib, and Welker, under market value by 25%-30%. ( If that works for the Pats) If these players leave for more money, it will be presented as that fact to the fans. NOT that the Patriots did not try to resign them.

  9. Alex says:

    1) Brady (aka Vollmer). Vollmer is the best RT in the league, if we can keep him for a similar amount to what the Chiefs gave Eric Winston, then we should be golden. With the possibility of drafting a developmental OT, we could then shift Cannon inside to RG. This would give us 4 big studs, and a Centre in Wendell who was immense this year.

    2) Talib. It would need to be a reasonable deal, we can’t afford $8-10m per, but at the right price, with the right voids built in to the contract to protect against character problems resurfacing, retaining Talib would greatly improve our secondary, and therefore our flexibility in the draft.

    3) Welker. Love the guy, and hope we could keep him for something close to 3 years at $17m, but we need to get younger and bigger in our WR core, regardless of whether we sign him or not. So although he would be a big loss, we wouldn’t have to draft to stay still if we lost him, unlike if we lost the other two.

  10. kevin says:

    Vollmer has had back problems so the number one goal resign talib he was what set our secondary on fire and they started to gel. Vollmer 2 because the back we can find a younger tackle in the draft as a prospect and cannon is a monster and last welker he’s great but the two tight end offense is what we run a slot receiver is a plus not a must

  11. AM says:

    1. Welker – I shudder to think what this season would have looked like without him. Edelman is great, and could be a breakout star next year, but until he proves that he can play consistently and stay healthy, he’s an insurance policy, not a replacement.

    2. Vollmer – Injury concerns here, but keeping Brady upright is the key to this team’s offensive success, and Vollmer is great at it. I’d tag him, and try to work out a long-term deal that’s cap-friendly on the front end.

    3. Talib – I suppose this is counterintuitive, given that the secondary remains such a huge need. Still, as great as Talib was while he was in, he played just a few games on a “best behavior” type of contract; given the off-field history and the on-field injuries, he represents a big risk. They definitely need corner help, but I only want Talib at the right price.

  12. Andy says:

    1. Talib
    2. Welker
    3. Vollmer

    But not any of them to top level deals. If thats what they want let them walk. Would also like to see them extend two of Ridley, Vereen, Ninkovich to team friendly deals this offseason. Thoughts?

    • Brian H says:

      Why extend Ridley and Vereen now? Not the Pats’ way to do it early and not take advantage of leverage.

  13. Hunter says:

    1. Vollmer. Let’s face it, the Patriots have two stop-gaps playing C and RG. While I believe they’ve played well above expectations, part of that is due to an All Pro LG and RT, and blossoming LT. I don’t want to see three stop-gaps on the o-line protecting the teams greatest asset.
    2. Talib? If the money’s right, though I think there will be other free agents that can fill a similar role. My dislike for him as an off-the-field presence might be swaying my opinion.
    3. Welker. He’d be 2 on my list if his price tag wasn’t so high. I think the team could sign Greg Jennings for cheaper, and Jennings is a more versatile player than Welker. I know that he and Brady work very well together, but don’t tell me that Brady can’t develop a relationship with another receiver. Gaffney came in mid-season a few years ago and made an immediate impact. And if Edelman can continue his development (like him or not, you must admit he is a MUCH better route runner, receiver, and overall player than he was coming out of college as a QB), he could develop into Welker’s role. The final wildcard (not counting draft) is Demps. Will he be a receiver or RB moving forward? He seems much too small to be a RB, and I honestly don’t know enough about him to judge his abilities, but if he can make the conversion he seems like a logical slot receiver.

    Just my two cents. I love Welker and everything he’s done, but I can’t condone franchising or overpaying for him.

    • Brian H says:

      Great point on the OL stop-gaps. Dante has done wonders – imagine what he could do by keeping LM and the 2 T’s, and drafting Barrett Jones and another top OL? Dominant….

  14. Paul D says:

    1. Talib
    2. Welker
    3. Vollmer

    • td says:

      Agreed, they have always been able to find a RT. WR & CB, not much luck.

      • AM says:

        True–I wonder if that is scouting or coaching?

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Lineman block (play) on every play. WR, CB’s role is greatly dependent on the play, many plays they are not involved. So thier experence is less over a season , by as much as 50% over Lineman. So from a scouting stand point it is harder to evaluate talent, based on plays (tape).
          Someone like CB DeMarcus Milliner is very risky, only playing one year of college ball.

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