How Will New England’s Offseason Moves Affect Their Financial Flexibility in 2014?

Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is entering the final year of his rookie contract. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

When considering how New England should allocate their money in free agency this offseason, it’s important to weigh the impact that multi-year contracts will have on their cap flexibility in future seasons as well. Unfortunately for the Patriots, making long-term investments in players such as Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, Aqib Talib, or outside free agent options may constrain their potential movements next offseason.

Read on for more information about the potential repercussions of this year’s free agent movements on next year’s possibilities.

Baltimore Ravens team president Dick Cass recently speculated that the salary cap “should not be much more than $122 million in 2014”, only a marginal increase over the 2013 season’s $121.1 million cap figure. Another incremental increase in the salary cap will challenge every team in the league, including New England, whose 2014 activity could be restricted by reaching new deals with any major 2013 free agents.

Right now, the New England Patriots have roughly $107 million invested towards their roster in 2014; this figure leaves them with roughly $15 million of salary cap room (less after this year’s moves, including their 2013 NFL Draft class.) New England could clear additional room by releasing players with significant cap savings, such as Dan Connolly ($3.00), Stephen Gostkowski ($3.00), Steve Gregory ($2.35), Daniel Fells ($1.85), along with fringe players who may not be on the roster; all in all, savings of $13-14 million are possible.

Of course, some of that available space will be earmarked for New England’s rookie classes this year and next, which should work out to around $8 million or more, and any deals lasting longer than one year which are signed this offseason will cut into the figure as well. Investments in players such as Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, or Aqib Talib would likely occupy upwards of $6 million each; Welker may demand over $8 million per year, Vollmer should be looking for at least as much as Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston signed for last season (five years, $30 million), and there is a precedent for Talib to seek $8-10 million annually, the same amount Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith is reportedly searching for.

Clearly, signing all three players would take a significant bite out of New England’s available space in 2014; other current free agents the Patriots may be interested in signing to long-term contracts include running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Julian Edelman, offensive guard Donald Thomas, and cornerback Kyle Arrington, not to mention any outside free agents they are hoping to reach agreements with. These players would further limit the amount of cap space available to New England in 2014.

Fortunately, unlike this offseason, the Patriots will not be asked to sign any premier free agents. However, there are still a number of starters and role players which New England’s front office could be interested in re-signing; namely, starting center Ryan Wendell, starting defensive tackle Kyle Love, starting left end Rob Ninkovich, and starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes.

The Patriots’ additional expiring contracts in 2014 are as follows: fullback Spencer Larsen, offensive guard Nick McDonald, defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick, defensive ends Marcus Benard and Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker Dane Fletcher (restricted), punter Zoltan Mesko, and long snapper Danny Aiken.

On top of the aforementioned names, foundational players such as Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty, and Nate Solder will be entering the final years of their current contracts. Barring any significant declines in production, these are all players with whom the Patriots should certainly be interested in locking up for additional time. It’s possible that New England will want to finalize deals with these players before their deals officially expire.

Tags: 2013 NFL Free Agency, NFL, Patriots, Salary Cap

16 Responses to “How Will New England’s Offseason Moves Affect Their Financial Flexibility in 2014?”

  1. trent says:

    Matt–

    Can you provide any credibility/reasoning to Dick Cass’ comments regarding the 2014 cap remaining relatively flat (yes I know he is an exec in the loop, but why exactly does he think that)? There is an opinion out there that execs are trying to make next year’s cap sound smaller to try to gain leverage in contract discussions this year.

    A year ago I bookmarked what I thought was a valuable link that explained the anticipated increases to the 2014 cap and beyond. I think this link provides reasonable logic and I have since been anticipating about a 5% jump or so in the cap next year. So I guess my real question is what is wrong in this article that would make Dick Cass believe otherwise? Thanks.

    http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2012/3/25/2900655/nfl-salary-cap-2014-dallas-cowboys-bob-kraft-new-england-patriots-jerry-jones

  2. Nick says:

    I think Spikes will be gone, they will move Hightower to his more natural MLB spot and get a new guy to put at Hightower’s current spot. Hopefully they get someone who can cover.

  3. patfan says:

    Think it might be time to cut loose Mankins and Connoly, that is about 10 million right there. Thomas and McDonald played well when ask to last year and we could also maybe draft a stud interior guy. Seems like a no brainer to me. Mankins seems to be hurt more often lately as well.

    • Bobthebuilder says:

      Why would we cut one of the best guards in football (mankins)?
      Also, before this year, he never, ever missed games. He played with a torn acl in he Super Bowl for gods sake!

    • MatthewJones says:

      Mankins has too much dead/guaranteed money to cut before 2015, so I expect him to be with New England for at least two more seasons.

  4. AM says:

    Really a rock-and-a-hard-place situation with Talib . . . the team definitely improved while he was in there, but a major financial commitment to him could seriously hamstring this offseason and the next. It would be one thing if he were a “shutdown corner,” but he’s really more of a solid player who looked spectacular by contrast with what was already here. With the injuries and off-the-field stuff, it’s a risk to re-sign him . . . but is it more of a risk than depleting an already poor secondary?

    • mjp says:

      To put a different light on it, McCourty was better than Talib in the games he played at CB this year. It makes you wonder if having Devin at FS and the simple fact that Talib allowed Arrington to stay on the slot are not the reasons this Defense improved so much.

      Another veteran CB with solid cover skills might have a similar impact at a reduced cost.

      • AM says:

        Just from observation, I feel like McCourty just doesn’t have the right stuff when it comes to man coverage. He was doing very well at CB this year prior to the FS shift (and much, much better than most people were giving him credit for), but it just seems like he is better with zone coverage. That means more conservative defensive schemes, which has been a nerve-wracking (although not entirely unsuccessful) approach these last few years.

        But I also think that same mind-/skillset could make him into one of the better FS in the league; you can tell that his instincts are really suited to the position. He has great range, vision, and skills; he lacks aggressiveness and physicality, though he is a sure tackler.

        All in all, I guess I agree. My proposal would be leave McCourty at FS; pick up a free agent CB to fill in for Talib, unless he could be had at a reasonable value; re-sign Arrington to be the slot corner; leave Dennard at the other CB spot; and draft D.J. Swearinger, Tony Jefferson, or Phillip Thomas to compete with Tavon Wilson for the hybrid/SS spot.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          I agree I like McCourty at FS better, than CB. Its nice he can play both positions in case of an injury, but we need a CB. I would think it’s MUCH better to draft a guy, than a costly free agent. If we let go Talib,and Arrington, they BB will draft TWO CB’s one early and one late, and bring in some undrafted guys to look at.
          D.J.Swearinger is a good prospect, tho he is a clone of McCourty, playing both S and CB, size, speed, etc.

        • AM says:

          I like Swearinger a lot–I think he has a bit of Rodney Harrison in him.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Wih Talib, Welker and Vollmer all walking, The Patriots will be better off, “money wise”. However We would have to draft players that can play these positions, knowing they will sign 4year rookie deals. We also have only 5 draft picks to get this done at present.
      “Buying” free agents will not help and be costly. We are rebuilding so getting younger is the way to go.
      Trading draft picks for more picks, will help with picks no later than the 3d round Talent.
      Trading QB Ryan Mallett, for more picks.
      Drafting players who can start, learn the system, and be better the next year.
      CB- Xavier Rhodes, Jordan Poyer are late 1st, to mid-2nd round picks.
      OT- Brian Winters, Menelik Watson are 2nd rounder’s, with Chris Faulk a 1st round talent dopping in the drat because of an injury, could be a great value as a late 3d, mid-4th pick.
      WR Markus Wheaton, and Quinton Patton are 2nd rounder,’s with other WR’s offering value with 4th picks or later, like Conner Vernon, Aaron Dobson, and Aaron Mellette will need time to be impact players.

      • AM says:

        Anyone (NEPD or poster) have any guesses on whether the team gets compensatory picks?

        • NEPD says:

          My guess is no. Trevor Scott, Steve Gregory, Brandon Lloyd will probably cancel Mark Anderson and BJGE.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          No-way we get any compensatory picks. The value of what we lost to free agency, was more than off-set, with our free agent signings. Which determinds weather you get any comp. picks.

      • munchkin says:

        What will the Pats get for Mallett and who would they replace him with? Does BB bring back Cassell, which wouldn’t be cheap, and hope that another draft pick or Kafka develops into what Mallett is now? AZ got something for Kolb because he had shown something in an NFL game. Matt Flynn never got off the bench in Seattle (for good reason). Foles played well for the eagles in the preseason but faltered when he came in for an injured Vick. Talented QBs are hard to come by. Cassell was likely the best QB prospect the team has had behind Brady and look how he fared in KC. Despite the one playoff run would we really want him to be Brady’s heir? If Mallett has talent, we should keep him.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          I agree , keep Mallett IF he is the future QB for the Patriots. However the signing of QB Kafka, who BB must like, sends a message that we are not sure Mallett is the future QB. Kafka maybe the guy BB feels fits the Patriot Offence, leaving Mallett on the trading block.
          Mallett offers real value, over any one in this years QB class, with two years left on his rookie contract. A team like Arizona could trade a 2d pick for Mallett, and still be able to draft OT Fisher with thier 1st pick. If they must draft a QB like Glennon 1st they will miss a quality player like Fisher, or Warmack to help thier Oline. Glennon will also get a bigger rookie contract as a 1st pick, while Mallett’s contract as 3d pick is a big savings. The Partiots may trade him for a 3d #69 and a 4th#100, instead of a 2nd # 38 to add more depth to the draft, depending on which players the Pariots are targeting.






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