2014 Patriots Off-Season: Salary Cap and Cap Space Breakdown

Vince Wilfork Titans Patriots

What to do with Vince Wilfork… (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

Now that the 2013 season is officially in the books, it means the entire football world turns their attention to the off-season. Player movement, trades, free agency, and the draft will all be front and center for the next four months.

For the Patriots it’s as important of an off-season that I can remember, at least as important as 2007 and 2009 when the Patriots completely retooled their offense.

Any plans and changes for the organization are contingent on cap space and the money available to be flexible. Here is a look inside the Patriots cap situation, where they stand, and how they can create money.

*This is part I in my off-season previews where I will lay out the game plan for what needs to happen, the available resources, my predictions, and a mock off-season blueprint.

Every off-season it seems comical when fans of NFL teams begin freaking out because their team only has “a few million” to spend in free agency or that they believe the lack of cap space will handicap the teams ability to improve. That’s just not the case. In the NFL the salary cap is a defined number that can’t be surpassed (likely to be 126.3 million this year), but unlike other sports it can be much easier to manipulate the cap and contracts than in a sport that has guaranteed contracts.

As the 2014 off-season starts, I’ve already been bombarded with e-mails and tweets complaining that the Patriots don’t have the cap space to make a “big move” or get better. False. The available cap space numbers right now mean very little and as you’ll see in this article there are plenty of ways to create more space by restructuring contracts and cutting players.

It’s important to remember in the NFL that guaranteed contracts don’t exist. The only money a player is guaranteed is the money they receive in signing, roster, or workout bonuses. This makes is possible for teams to restructure player contracts by converting base salary to signing bonuses which can be spread out among the remaining years of a deal (up to 5 years). This will be important to keep in mind this off-season as the Patriots have a few players likely to be restructured, and a few players that don’t make sense to restructure for various reasons.

Where they stand today:

According to Miguel’s Patriots Salary Cap page, which can be seen (here), the Patriots will enter the 2014 off-season with just about 7.3 million in cap space. This number includes carry over from 2013 and is based on a final cap number of 126.3 million dollars. That 7 million is before any cuts, signings, or tendering of contracts.

The exact number of these contracts and their cap savings are available on other sites, but due to rules like top 51, and more complex rules all of these numbers are general estimates just to give readers an idea of where the Patriots stand.

Where they Can Create Space:

As discussed above, restructuring contracts and cutting a player doesn’t mean that all of the players money comes off the cap. What ever guaranteed money is left on the contract will remain and be spread out over the life of the contract. It’s also important to remember that only the Top 51 contracts count against the cap at this point of the league year.

So if a player in the top 51 is released, another contract takes it’s place which is usually $495,000 dollars. With that being said, there are some very obvious and likely roster moves that can be made to free up easy money.

1) Release Isaac Sopoaga

Cap Hit: 3,500,000 – Dead Money: 1,000,000 – Top 51: $495,000 = Cap Savings: $ 2.005 million dollars

2) Release Dan Connolly

Cap Hit: $4,083,000 – Dead Money: $1,083,000 – Top 51: $495,000 = Cap Savings: $2.500 million dollars

3) Release Adrian Wilson

Cap Hit: $1,883,000 – Dead Money: $666,000 – Top 51: $495,000 = Cap Savings: $722,000

Total Savings: $5,227,00 + $7,330,000 = Total Cap Space: $12,557,000

There are another couple players that can be released to create cap space, whether they are released or not these contracts are likely to be altered.

1) Release Tommy Kelly

Cap Hit: $3,000,000 – Dead Money: $500,000 – Top 51: $495,000 = Cap Savings: $2,005,000

2) Release Steve Gregory 

Cap Hit: $3,183,000 – Dead Money: $833,000 – Top 51: $495,000 = Cap Savings: $1,855,000

Total Savings: $3,860,000 + $12,557,000 = Total Cap Space: $16,417,000

Just by releasing those five players the Patriots more than double their available cap space. While they’d have to replace five roster players, none of those players would greatly change the structure or success of the team.

The next set of roster moves are a bit tougher to project and breakdown. I’ll try to run through them quickly.

Player Re-signings:

1) Devin McCourty: Without going into too much detail if the Patriots resign McCourty to a 4-5 year deal, it’s very likely they’d reduce his cap hit anywhere between 2.0 – 3.0 million dollars. For the purpose of this let’s call it $2,500,000 in additional cap space created.

2) Stephen Gostkowski: Gostkowski has a cap hit of 3.8 million dollars and is in the final year of his deal, making it very likely his contract is redone. By extending Gostkowski 3 or 4 years they can reduce his 2014 cap salary by at least $1.2 million dollars. Let’s assume the number is reduced by $1,200,000.

Total Savings: Approx. $3,700,000 + $16,417,000 = Total Cap Space: $20,117,000

Without even restructuring players that are currently signed the Patriots already have over 20 million in cap space. Now this is where it gets tricky. Basically the Patriots have three big salaries they could restructure and possibly a fourth (Gronkowski), but I feel that one is more unlikely. Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, and Jerod Mayo are the three biggest contracts that could be restructured.

Restructurings

1) Vince Wilfork: Wilfork is the biggest decision when it comes to creating cap space because A) Has a massive cap hit (11.6 million) and Base Salary (7.5 milion) B) He is in the last year of his deal C) Can free up the most money and D) Is coming off injury. According to PatsCap, there are three possible scenarios to deal with Wilfork.

A) Release Wilfork: Creates just over $7,500,000 million in cap space. If the Patriots want to rebuild this position through free agency, the draft, and they young guys on the roster this is the easiest move to create cap space. Releasing Wilfork and then re-signing him could be a possibility.

B) Extending his Contract: If Wilfork is extended for 2 seasons they could move 6 million of his 7.5 million in salary to future years and frees up $4,000,000 in additional cap space.

C) Convert his 2014 Salary to Performance Bonus: This is an option I initially overlooked and it might be the most plausible, if Wilfork is willing to work with the team. Converting 3.5-4.0 million of his base salary to performance bonuses would save the team between 3.5-4.0 dollars.

For the sake of this article lets say they either resign or convert his salary to bonuses and save $4,000,000 in cap space. That said, I don’t rule out the release scenario.

2) Logan Mankins: 

Mankins Base Salary: $6,250,000 + Signing Bonus: $4,000,000 + Misc. Bonus: $250,000 = Cap Hit: $10,500,000

The move here is to have Mankins convert a large chunk of his base salary to signing bonus and push it to future years. I’d estimate if they do this the number would likely be $4,250,000 making his base number $2,000,000 this year.

3) Jerod Mayo

Mayo Base Salary: $3,250,000 + Signing Bonus: $1,200,000 + Misc Bonus: $2,387,500 = Cap Hit: $7,287,500

I’m not convinced that need to or will restructure Mayo this year as his base salary increases greatly in the next few years. If they chose to restructure, they could convert $2,250,00 to bonus money. Creating a cap savings of $2,250,000.

Total Savings (Mankins + Wilfork): $8,250,000 + $20,117,000 = Total Cap Space: $28,367,000

 

Conclusion:

As laid out the Patriots have multiple ways to create plenty of cap space to play with this off-season. If they follow all of the options above they will be under the cap by approx. $28.367 million dollars.

This cap space will go quickly. They need to keep some money aside to sign draft picks (4 million),  field a practice squad (1.7 million),  and leave some extra room for in-season emergencies or roster moves. When these things are totaled it’s likely 8 million of that money is put aside right away for those purposes.

This leaves them with just about $20.367 million dollars to use as they like. Plenty of money to make any roster moves they need to field a better team in 2014. Signing Aqib Talib will take up 4-6 million in base salary for 2014 and even after that they have plenty of money. Keep in mind when they sign players in the off-season, the numbers aren’t what they seem. The guaranteed money is what matters, teams usually structure the first year with a manageable base salary to fit them in. Based on my calculations and personal feelings, the Patriots have plenty of options and money to be active this off-season.

It’s an entirely different discussion to debate how and if the Patriots choose to use that free money. Stay tuned for my thoughts on that in future off-season previews.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Salary Cap, Vince Wilfork

89 Responses to “2014 Patriots Off-Season: Salary Cap and Cap Space Breakdown”

  1. Mike says:

    Performance bonuses a player is likely to hit are counted against the salary cap. No way would Wilfork give up money on bonuses he is unlikely to hit..SO…forget about this as a means for CAP relief

  2. An Off-season Plan For The New England Patriots

    Opening up cap space:
    -restructure Wilfork and Gostowski
    -cut dan Conolly, adrian wilson, and tommy kelly
    -try to fix Hernandez cap hit
    Pats free agents:
    -franchise Aqib Talib
    -resign julian Edelman
    -resign Hoomanawanui (should be cheap)
    -let LeGarrette Blount walk (turned out useless against Denver)
    -let brandon spikes walk
    -let danny Aiken walk
    -let ryan wendell walk
    Free Agents:
    -sign Alex Mack (center)
    Draft:
    -1st round- Aaron Donald DT- I think this kid is the next Gerald Mccoy, he can solve the pats interior pass rush issues, as well as be a force in run defense
    -2nd round- CJ Fiedorowicz TE- a major sleeper, I see a lot of Rob Gronkowski in this kid, phenomenal blocker as well as lethal red zone weapon. He has the huge hands and ball skills to swallow up anything thrown his way
    -3rd round- Dakota Dozier G- one of the most underrated players in the draft, he has the potential to be an elite NFL guard. He and alex mack will be a major improvement over Connolly and wendell, and when Brady can step up and his protected from the inside, he is damn near unstoppable.
    -4th round- Terrence Brooks S- the pats don’t really need a safety as much as they need a head hunter who has a knack for the ball and creating turnovers, and Brooks is a big hitter with phenomenal instincts. He is also great in run support and can be a head hunter in the middle of the field.
    In conclusion, these moves would solve major issues in interior protection, interior pass rush, run defense, red zone efficiency, and physicality in the secondary.

    • acm says:

      Not sure how easy it would be to get OC Alex Mack – I can see the Browns franchise him if they can’t resign him to a long term deal. Restructuring Conolly and moving him to C would be something to consider as he is better there than at G.

      Also, franchising Talib would cost 11 or so mil, iirc. So, that’s not very likely and feasible to happen, imo.

      That Hernandez money would be near impossible to get back without conviction and that’s unlikely to happen before well after the draft.

      Regrading the picks, I have all the last 3 – CJF, Dozier and Brooks on my board. Not sold on Donald as a 1st rounder yet and think he would drop some to allow for a trade down from the first for an extra 2nd and 3rd + change.
      I would personally trade down from 29 and pick up Donald, Fuller or Pryor with the 1st 2nd round pick and a 3-4/4-3 OLB with the extra 3rd like Jeremiah Attouchu (very similar to Collins).

      Would prefer getting a DT for interior rush in free agency – Peters, Houston, Jones come to mind – as Wilfork may well have played his last game and would need vet presence in the trenches.

  3. Daniel R. Martin says:

    I am contemplating the following potential off season moves. I say contemplating because I don’t profess to be certain as to the efficacy of these moves and whether they would be beneficial to the team, nor to whatever extent they might be. This is an amalgamation of mostly my wish list and some thoughts that I’m considering. I do feel confident in the draft selections. These moves are not listed sequentially by order of importance.

    However, the three primarily goals I believe to be paramount leading into the new season are as follows: first and foremost rebuild the multiple TE set with both a player that can replicate if not exceed the productivity of A. Hernandez, but also another quality TE to provide an adequate backup to Gronkowski, whose injury proneness has severely crippled the team in the last 3 playoff runs.

    Of significant yet secondary importance, add pieces to the front seven and even secondary (SS position) that can assist in developing a greater pass rush. This should include additional rotational pieces at DE, linebackers that are athletic enough to blitz, defensive linemen that can collapse pockets, creating interior pressure, and a bruising strong safety that can also make plays at the line of scrimmage, such as Pittsburgh’s Troy Polomalu.

    Thirdly, I feel as though the Patriots front office should recognize a dire need to increase the overall physicality on the defense. There is no collective identity for the Pats’ defensive unit. I would like to see larger framed players brought into the Patriots’ secondary. Players that play as big as their build would suggest. I’d like to see greater tenacity. Players who seem to perpetually have a chip on their shoulders. I am not saying get a big guy who likes to hit, yet lacks solid coverage skills. Rather, I am asserting a belief that the Patriots would benefit from bruising, punishing corners and especially safeties who can bring a significant intimidation factor. Adrian Wilson was supposed to fill this role.

    Next, the Pats should focus on adding some dynamic play makers with elite level speed to their offensive fold. We presently have four running backs that run similarly, with the only exception being Vereen’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield. They all run well, yet none of them have elite, game breaking speed. Versatility is lacking. Also, we have many slot receivers. Yet, presumably only Dobson has the build and skill set to be a starting wideout at the X-receiver position.

    Also, the team should add an immediate contributor to the offensive line, as well as some developmental players.

    #1.) Cut Sopoaga
    #2.) Release Dan Connolly
    #3.) Cut Steve Gregory
    #4.) Retain Adrian Wilson
    #5.) Extend Gostkowski
    #6.) Extend Devin McCourty
    #7.) Trade Ryan Mallet to the Texans for their 2nd round pick as previously rumored. I think this is wishful thinking, but trade him for at least a later 2nd or 3rd.
    #8.) Trade first round draft selection for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th round picks as was done last year.
    #9.) Trade Steven Ridley for a 4th round selection (Not factored in below).
    #10.) Restructure Logan Mankins.
    #11.) Either restructure or release Vince Wilfork.
    #12.) Either resign Tommy Kelly for a smaller price tag or cut him.
    #13.) Clear roster space of Vellano and Jones at DT.
    #14.) Attempt to coax Tony Gonzalez out of retirement for a team friendly deal. I know he is already rich and I do believe he both sincerely deserves and desires as championship ring.
    #15.) Sign DE Jared Allen
    #16.) Let Spikes walk.
    #17.) Extend Mayo to create additional cap room.
    #18.) ****Would there be ANY benefit to restructuring players like Arington for less money? I was given to believe that Arington was considered to be a sub par corner with a skill set so limited he could barely provide adequate coverage in the slot. I remember a lot of people were shocked when he was resigned for a somewhat substantial contract. I say ask him to take a pay cut or send him packing.
    #19.) Develop the talents of Boyce and Moe and prepare them to fill in the slot receiver roll.
    #20.) If enough money can be saved by releasing Amendola to make keeping Edelman feasible, do it.
    #21.) Resign Talib
    #22.) Resign Blount. Otherwise, do not trade Ridley.
    #23.) If Edelman would stay for 3-4 million per year on a four year contract, let him.
    #24.) Make the following draft selections:

    2 – Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE (33rd Overall for Mallet) 2 – Antonio Richardson OT (Received for 1st Rd pick)
    2 – Dominique Easley DL
    3 – Brandon Coleman WR (Received for 1st Rd pick)
    3 – Chris Boreland ILB (Plays like Jamie Collins with the Heart of a lion. He will be drafted well behind his consistent level of production simply due to being undersized.)
    4 – Craig Loston SS (Received for 1st Rd pick)
    4 – Dri Archer RB/WR/PR/KR -
    6 — Colt Lyerla TE
    6 – Aaron Murray QB
    C6 – Seantrell Henderson OT
    7 – Boseko Lokombo ILB **Could be steal of the draft!**
    7 – Spencer Long OG

    #25.) Sign either DE/DT Lamarr Houston OR DE Justin Tuck
    #26.) Sign Bernard Pollard

  4. Alex (freemanator) says:

    If anyone is interested I have done a cap break down and analysis over on Pats Pulpit, which is currently on the front page. It comes with a spreadsheet to play around with, and looks to take into account the cap over the rest of Brady’s contract.

  5. bob says:

    I think you sign Talib, Scott Chandler and Arthur Jones. Jones would work well next to his brother and Chandler is a clear upgrade over Mulligan and the Homanawanui. Talib secures your secondary and all of these signings don’t cost a ton. If you can get Edleman back with the extra money then do it. If you can sign these four, you have the flexibility in the draft to go out and get the best prospect and not be stuck to going after one position over another. Gives the Patriots more power on draft day.

    • Love the idea of Arthur Jones, what do you project it would cost? Chandler is another story, only a slight upgrade over Mulligan and Homan, we should look for another impact TE. Besides there are a number of TE’s later in the draft that could fill his skill set.
      I’m reall torn on Talib, healthy he’s great but injuries are part of his pkg. Either way I hope we add another CB FA’cy or draft and fill the long lacking SS need.

      • bob says:

        Not sure on Jones. I saw somewhere that he could go for 4-5 million per year. I think that is very reasonable for him, as long as you cut Kelly and Sopoaga. I don’t think Chandler is a huge upgrade at TE but I think by signing him you get a veteran who succeeded with Ryan Fitzpatrick who helps you on draft day. I think because of his injuries, Talib will come back at 6 million a year which is reasonable. Doesn’t seem to be much interest in him.

        As far as the draft goes I think the Patriots will take whoever is the best player that has fallen or they will trade back. I really like Ryan Shazier, a LB from Ohio State. He is very fast and plays at an extremely intense rate. I think he would match well with Jamie Collins and would give the Patriots two fast linebackers as well as 2 hard hitting linebackers. Would give them a lot of flexibility and he is a great pass rusher.
        Another option is Allen Robinson, WR from Penn State. I know Belichick already drafted receivers last year but Robinson played for Bill O’Brien for 2 years. He knows the system and has great size. He would be great to put opposite Dobson. Reminds of a more athletic Anquan Boldin.
        If not Bill could take a OL in the first round to help protect Brady. I would love to get Houstons second round pick for Ryan Mallet.

        • Not sure what you mean saying your not sure about Arthur Jones? You don’t like his play, his cost or don’t think it’s a realistic possability? I’d cut Kelly and Sopo in a heartbeat if Bill signed Jones who is in his prime and likely has 5-6 good years there.
          Another question, when you say signing Chandler helps us on draft day I’m not at all sure it does. Can you give more thoughts on that?
          Also Shazier is easily a high 2nd round pick. Our starters project to be Mayo, Hightower and Collins, which one of these starters do you sit to give Shazier starting time, or do we rotate him in and plan to release one of the others in the future?
          A thought of my own, lots of guys are advocating trading Mallett for Houston’s #33. I kind of think that’s a long shot even given the O’Brian connection. Love it if it happenes, but all due respect, I’ll believe it when it happens. Also this is a good year for o-linemen so no need to go after one in the 1st rd.

  6. Bobby says:

    I think the ideas above are great but there is no way we do all of these. Cut Kelly and Sopoaga, restructure Vince and Mankins if you can but we also have a lot of money tied up in guys in a couple years as well. Do enough to at least get Talib back. I think Arthur Jones, Chandler Jones’s brother could be a dark horse for the Patriots to sign. Would work great next to his brother, would be exciting to watch and he would probably cost what Sopoaga and Kelly combined. I think TJ Ward would a great addition at safety but his price may be to high. Thus I say try and get Jones and Talib which helps fix the defense and maybe go after Scott Chandler and Edleman if you have some leftover money.

  7. Daniel R. Martin says:

    I watched Talib shut down Graham. However, he was also burned all game by Steve Smith, and his injury proneness left us hanging in two title games. I wonder if letting him go, signing Brent Grimes for a smaller price tag, and then drafting a replacement big bodied corner and another sizable, aggressive SS wouldn’t be a better way to go.

    • That’s a tough one Dan. Talib’s recurring injuries are a problem but when healthy he’s above avg for sure. I’m not convinced Bill want’s to spend as much on him as has been projected so he might allow him to test the market and then match any reasonable offer or let him go if someone thinks big bucks are in order.

    • bmp1113 says:

      burned all game? steve smith caught 4 passes for 62 yards, 42 were on one play. He beat talib on one play and he was letting his fights with smith distract him. He didnt even finish the whole game.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Play your semantics elsewhere.

      • The “why” is less important then the “what” in that game. The “what” was our def couldn’t get off the field and Smith was a major element in that. Another “what” was Talib couldn’t finish, again. Besides Smith’s catches he also drew a major penalty from Talib, as I recall. That said, that game is not the best example to judge Talib upon.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          I agree Steve. I brought that game up as it was the only recent example that demonstrates that Talib, who does flash greatness occasionally, isn’t a consistent shutdown corner. In other words, he isn’t exactly Deion Sanders. I do, of course, recognize that he is quite good though. The fact that his inability to finish either AFC title game, and the subsequent collapse of the team’s pass defense, simultaneously illustrates a red flag against him as well as just how much trouble our defense was in without him.

          My main position concerning Mr. Talib is that he is good, and he is worth a good chunk of money. However, he does have well established off field issues and has demonstrated injury proneness. If he can be had at a reasonable price we definitely are better for it. But I wonder if the team would not be at least as equally served by utilizing that money to grab a J. Byrd or T. J. Ward to play as safeties. Or even less money to acquire the services of a Brent Grimes like corner.

        • Dan, I do think we would be just as well served using the money on Ward or Byrd though bringing Talib back at the reasonable cost of 6+/- mil. works too. If we went the former route then drafting a CB like Fuller would become an early need. Either way we win I’d think.

  8. Pete H. says:

    While I’d love to see an upgrade at safety, I don’t see it happening this season for a few reasons.
    1) If you bring in a top tier free agent, you may not be able to both extend McCourty and re-sign Talib. I’d rather roll with 2 guys you know than bring in someone you don’t.
    2) If you’re bringing in a mid-level free agent, there will be less upside and more risk since you have a hard time knowing how the player will translate to the Patriots. In that case, you may not want to dish out the same or more money to a player who may not be any better than Gregory. You at least know what to expect from Gregory, reducing the risk at that position, and retaining him allows you to focus your resources to find impact players elsewhere on the roster. Seattle’s safety duo is certainly dynamic, but I think there are other ways to win than having 2 elite safeties.
    3) If you want to draft a replacement, you’re taking a big risk that a first year player (or Harmon or Wilson) will be able to fill a starter’s role (consider the recent high safety picks). If you wait a year to draft a high-end talent, you’ll have a better idea of how well Harmon and Wilson can cover the starting role in case the rookie takes time to develop, or you’ll know that Harmon and Wilson are useless and that you need a free agent for sure.

    It’s fun to think about a stud next to McCourty with Talib and Dennard covering in front, but I think we may not it this season. What strategy to folks think the Pats should use on this position, and are you okay with the risks involved?

    • I don’t know, but saying lets not bring in someone whatever position whether through FA or draft because there is a risk doesn’t sound quite right. Isn’t there always a risk? Isn’t it the job of the scouting department, coach/GM to minimize those risks not to just do nothing and hope for the best? I believe ther are four safties in the draft that are good mid round prospects, Dixion, Boston, Loston, and Exum. Two very good FA’s are JT Ward and Jairus Byrd. These FA’s would be very costly it’s true but they are proven value. If you want to argue against spending the money that’s okay but to argue to do nothing makes no sense to me.

      • Pete H. says:

        Well I guess I’m saying I wouldn’t spend the money on a top tier guy, and I think it’s pretty rare for a mid-round safety prospect to come in and have a big impact right away. I’m guessing if you grab one of those guys, you’ll still need Gregory to start games for you next season. Furthermore, you’re counting a bit too much on getting lucky IMO if you’re hoping for mid-round pick to become a stud, as most simply don’t. I’m afraid you’re more likely to get another Harmon/Wilson/Ebner type guy, which you already have. In this case, you’re better off waiting a year to make an investment at the position and riding with an okay guy for another year while you see if your current 2nd and 3rd round picks develop. Next season, I’d say if Harmon and Wilson don’t develop, than go for a high draft pick or a free agent. I thought Gregory was not an eyesore when he played among a strong cast in the beginning of the season – I had no problem with him when he was the 10th or 11th best defender on the field. Doing nothing is better than cutting Gregory and bringing in a guy who turns out to be worse, considering your other safeties outside of McCourty are question marks already. Next year, Harmon and Wilson should be known commodities (let’s say Wilson is a special teamer and Harmon is a capable spot starter, but not the quality player you’re looking for to start). Then you can draft a guy high knowing that Harmon can fill in until he’s ready, or you can grab a mid-level guy in free agency and have some security if he busts.

        • Your probably right in your assessment Pete I’d just like to take a shot on one of those S I mentioned. After all the risk would be about the same for any position in the mid and lower rounds and as far as I could tell Ebner and Travon should easily be improved upon even if the replacement wasn’t a “stud”.

        • Pete H. says:

          Fair enough Steve, and thanks for commenting… fun to talk Pats off-season strategy!

  9. Alex (freemanator) says:

    Of all those move I hope they don’t cut Kelly and restructure Mankins.
    Kelly was looking good for us, and I’d rather see if he would take a little less to stay, than cut him outright.

    And Mankins has just not lived up to his salary, and so it makes little sense to borrow from the future from his contract; when if we leave it, he’ll have little to no leverage next year, and we could cut him, or do an extension along the lines of what you’re proposing for Vince.

    The rest all makes sense though, and is along the same lines I was thinking.

  10. MarcR33 says:

    Great breakdown with the cap space here my 2 cents:Re-sign Talib,Edleman, Blount…and Fletcher.Sign: Arthur Jones,Kenny Britte,Chad #70 Henne,and Justin Tuck …..cut Amendola!!!……..Trade Mallett for a 3rd #70-JAX……..Draft: #29 trade to OAK for #36(2nd) #103(4th)….Draft:#36-Jace Amaro TE….#62-Calvin Pryor-S……#70-Jordan MATTHEWS-WR….#93-Daniel MCCULLERS-DT……#103-Dominique Easley-DE…….#126-Keith McGil-CB…..6th(PHI) Jeremy Gallon…..6th(own) Sentrel HENDERSON-OT…..6th(comp chung) Aaron. Murray-QB……7th(OAK) Colt LEYERA-TE…..7th(own) Caleb Lavey-ILB. ….Thoughts??? And please be kind lol

  11. TD says:

    Some of the above scenarios sound great, but for the hacking of some of these guys:
    Wilfork
    Kelly
    Gregory
    and
    Connolly

    Release Wilfork and Kelly and we are relegated to the same DT’s that could not hold up at the LOS. Armstead has still not taken the field!

    Release Gregory Wilson and we have McCourty & Harmon and nothing else unless you really want to depend on Wilson Ebner, yikes!

    Release Connolly & let Wendell go and we have just Mankins on the interior. Slide Cannon in at RG and now we have no insurance for Vollmer.

    In all reality I see releasing Sopaoga, Wilson & Kelly and restructuring Connolly, Gregory, Wilfork, Mankins Mayo. Not sure if someone has been training at Center for the last few years just as Wendell did.

    They have to upgrade both side of the LOS this offseason, may need to pickup some interior OL upgrade(s).

  12. Jeff M says:

    Don’t forget the money from Hernandez that likely gets freed up.

    When all is said and done, I’m guessing Pats have anywhere from $20-$30 in cap space and use it on Scott Chandler as a FA, resigning Talib and Blount and a FA pass rusher…maybe Everson Griffen? He’d be a lot cheaper than others and Bill wanted to draft him so he’s another possibility.

    • GM-In-Training says:

      Some legal experts are saying Hernandez could walk. The cases are hard to prove, the witnesses are circumstantial and not of the highest character, expensive lawyers, etc.

      For the Pats to get salary cap relieve, some reporters are saying there has to be a conviction.

      • I’ve read much the same thing, that he has to be found guility before Pat’s can get out from under the contract. Even if that happens I doubt it would take any effect on this years cap due to the time courts take in these things. Even if the league were to say we get relief I’d expect his layers to fight that league finding. All in all this probably will drag on for months so expecting any cap relief this year is unwarrented.

        • TD says:

          Wouldn’t the only “relief” be from his signing bonus? They were off the hook from his base salary the day they hacked him, but that usually accelerates the bonus that is spread out over the length of the contract, which at this point is this year?

          Like you say, by the time it gets ironed out, BB and Brady will probably be retired so I expect they are saddled with the $7.5 million cap hit this year and that’s the end of it.

        • Sounds right to me TD.

      • kevan says:

        well from what i got it comes down to if he gets indicted on the 2012 double homicide, which looks very possible, cause it was pre contract. but even if the relief comes a lil late it still works and if he gets found not guilty he is still far from out of the woods. he’s gotta long way to go i think he’s scrood. visual of vehicle at murder site at the time of murder, text messages that pretty much spell it out, cleaning crews, broke cell phone and security system, visual of hernandez with gun in hand right after homicide, visual of him with victim right before himicide. i kno im missing alot 2 shit he texted his sister nfl just so u know. makes me cringe. but yea say this is oj all over again he’s still gotta worry bout 2012. eventually people are gonna start talking they always do. how many family members die since he got arrested? this bradley dude is key. im pretty sure of 2 things at some point pats get some relief and this is a movie waiting to happen. not guilty does not mean innocent. like a judge once told me if u wanna b free ud rather be rich and guilty rather then poor and innocent so yall could be right. either way pats should get some relief just a matter of when. time will tell.

  13. kevan says:

    i love this website. for me the most interesting thing to monitor is what happens with the 7.5 million owed to hernandez. what does this website think will happen? and when will pats fans find out how that gets resolved? hindsight is 20/20 and obviously it was a bad move to do that deal but the guy did have HOF talent. the thing about sociopaths is they blend in pretty well with society its hard for regular people to see that, that person has serious problems. i think its only fair pats get some kind of cap relief on that contract. i think new deals for mankins mayo wilfork and mcourtey are coming. there all captains and will set the tone for a very interesting off-season. its gonna be a fun one. interior oline, tight end, d end, db. thats where id focus on making improvements.

  14. Very glad to see we are not the paupers of free agency, thanks Mike for your hard work. I am encouraged to think that between free agents and the draft this year we could see a much improved team take the field in Sept. and actually have a real shot at another championship, barring injuries.

  15. Brian says:

    It’s all well and good to create cap space but if you don’t use the extra money for talented players what good is it ? They left money on the table last year. Check out the Pats FA signings last offseason. They were pretty bad.

    • Ryan says:

      I’d definitely agree. Signing impact players at WR, DE, and S should be a top priority this offseason, as explosiveness at these positions was sorely lacking outside of a few emerging stars.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        In all honesty the Pats did attempt to address the SS need by bringing in Adrian Wilson. I was a fan of that move and was surprised it didn’t work to great effect. I strongly feel as though we need a player in the SS position, and other positions as well, who can bring precisely what Wilson was billed to deliver.

        • Ryan says:

          I was equally surprised about how the Adrian Wilson move fell flat. If he is healthy now and able to play at a level close to where he used to be with the Cardinals, then I have no issue with keeping him to be the guy at safety. I’m just not sure that that will happen and I think a guy like Chris Clemons would do wonders for their defense.

      • Sometimes these signings work out other times they don’t. Bill avoides paying for big name big bucks FA’s for the most part I think for two reasons. 1) if the guy doesn’t work out it’s money down the drain. 2) paying a newcomer big money can upset the entire pay structure of the team, at least that’s what I’ve been given to understand. Still like most fans I would love to see Bill make a run at Jarius Byrd or JT Ward.

        • bmp1113 says:

          A byrd and mccourty safety corps would be interesting to see. They would be a sort of different safety group than the prototype ss and fs but they would be dangerous. I think byrds going to get paid way out of the pats range but ward might be interesting. I am also willing to give harmon a chance and think Gregory is a solid, steady player but he isnt worth that money

        • Agree Harmon has to be in the mix at least if/until he proves otherwise, but I have high hopes for the kid and think he can develop into starter in time or at least very solid rotational player. Sure hope! Still I’d love to sign TJ Ward for SS. Agree Byrd is unrealistic but taking such a player from the Bills does have it’s attraction. I do think we could draft another SS like Ahmad Dixon who played the hybred S/LB for Baylor and can play strong against the run plus has good cover skills too.

    • Bill says:

      Any money not used this offseason gets carried over into next offseason. 4 million is getting carried over into this offseason.

    • Alex (freemanator) says:

      They did not leave money on the table. Don’t buy into the media ignorance line that the Pats are cheap. They spent most, but not all of their money last year, and the rest ~$2m or so, wasn’t left on the table, but rolled over to this years cap to be spent now.

      If you want to say they didn’t get good players in FA, then that’s a different point. But you can’t splurge on top FAs, and keep your own guys, not if you’re a good team.

  16. Trevor says:

    Mike, who are top 5 free agents for the Patriots? just a quick list.

  17. Ryan says:

    I’m glad that someone made sense of the cap situation, because as I looked through reports stating we had only 2.7 million I couldn’t believe. Some free agents I think we should now consider:
    WR: Both Hakeem Nicks and Anquan Boldin could provide a reliable veteran presence for Brady. At the more risky end of he spectrum are Danario Alexander, Kenny Britt, James Jones, Andre Roberts and Jerome Simpson, guys who look good at their best but have issues or are inconsistent. Pats should make an effort to sign an experienced player here, especially if Edelman gets away.

    TE: Some more depth could be useful at this position. Brandon Myers, Kellen Winslow, Scott Chandler and Fred Davis all seem like potential veteran fits.

    DE: Pats should take a look at some pass-rushers here, like Greg Hardy, Jared Allen, Justin Tuck, Willie Young, Anthony Spencer and even Lamarr Houston. Some heat off of the four-man rush is crucial.

    CB: If Talib is not coming back, guys like Sam Shields, Vontae Davis, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Terrell Thomas, Tracy Porter and Tarell Brown should be examined as potential replacements.

    S: A veteran that complements McCourty’s style of play would be very helpful. Guys like Yeremiah Bell, Quintin Mikell, Mike Mitchell, T.J. Ward, Michael Huff, Chris Clemons, Donte Whitner and even the hated Bernard Karmell Pollard should be given a long look in order to try and add veteran depth to the position.

    • Fry says:

      Greg Hardy said himself that all the Panthers have to do to keep him is to “give me a call and offer a boat load of money.”

      So, I think we can write off Hardy.

    • Jim R says:

      Ryan some good selections there, I would take Pollard in a second, He is the type of SS you want back there. One of those veteran WR’s would be fine another young wr in the mix would not help we have plenty. They need to start drafting some Corners over 6 feet ASAP. Dowling had a history of injuries and proved out to be a very bad choice. Talib if he wants top Corner money se you later. if they can get him for @ 5-6 P/year keep him. Edeleman proved anybody can play that slot position in this offense and be successful.

      • Saying anyone can play the slot position just isn’t so Jim. It does take a certain skill set and while it may be true that there are far more receivers that are smallish, quick and shifty then the tall, fast outside type so desired Edelman, and Welker before him, showed rare courage and skill at the position. I expect the position can be filled regardless but give credit where credit is due.

        • Jim R says:

          No disrespect intended, the point which I missed making was if you target a guy enough he will put up huge numbers. If amendola,TJ Moe or boyce play the slot next year and Brady targets them 110 times what type of numbers will they put up, I do not think you will see a huge drop-off. Would like to see Edelman back at the right price it would be 1 less thing you have to worry about on offense. Will the Pats be willing to give him a 3 or 4 year deal at @ 4-5 million like amendola?

        • When put that way I can understand your point and agree Boyce, Moe and Amendola could probably put up pretty good numbers, all depends if they have Tom’s confidence I guess. I too would like Edelman back he’s a double threat, but as you indecate we cant sell the farm either.

    • Russell says:

      Scott Chandler just (Jan.) had knee surgery, will miss training camp.

      • acm says:

        are you sure you are not confusing this with last season – he tore his ACL at the end of the 2012 season and the surgery was in Jan 2013?

      • Really guys I can’t see why Chandler comes into the conversation much he’s pretty much a journyman TE maybe a notch higher but I rather consider guys that would have more impact we have seen already how easy it is to pick up TE’s that fill in.

  18. trent says:

    Mike, thanks for the article, this is exactly how I see it too, in terms of the maximum amount of cap moves. I will eagerly await your future articles and projections as a I am curious how your projected offseason moves align with mine and others who follow.

    Here is another totally underrated offseason consideration that MUST be addressed: Nate Solder.

    Solder was part of the first draft class under the new CBA in which teams have a fifth-year option on first-round draft picks. If the team picks up the option, the player will be paid in 2015 based on:

    (1) the transition tag cost of that player’s position (if player picked in the top 10 of the draft),

    (2) the average salary of the top 3 to 25 players at that position (if player picked after pick 10 in the first round–Nate Solder’s case)

    The reason I bring this up is because the window to pick up the 2015 option for Nate is the end of the 2013 season (now) and May 4th, 2014. So the Patriots will have to make a decision THIS OFFSEASON whether or not to add the extra year on to his contract.

    Does this move impact the 2014 salary cap? NO. So many of you reading this probably don’t care because you are only focused on this year’s cap. But I did want to bring it up because (1) it is an offseason consideration for THIS offseason, and (2) the salary cap must be managed long-term, not short-term. If we did everything listed in this article to save space this year and sign big names, well fine, fans are happy, but have any of you looked at the Patriots cap next year? I have, and pushing signing bonuses to next year puts a lot of cap pressure on the team, and would make it hard to keep someone like Solder.

  19. Pete H. says:

    Ideal off-season for the Patriots:
    1) Restructure Wilfork and Connolly to lower cap hits ($6 mil saved).
    2) Release A. Wilson, Sopoaga, and Kelley ($4.8 mil saved).
    3) Extend McCourty and Gostkowski to save some cap space($3.7 mil saved).
    4) Sign Aquib Talib (4 years, 6-8 mil per year), Scott Chandler (4 years 3-5 mil per year), Anthony Spencer (1 year prove-it, 2-3 mil), and Dane Fletcher (4 years, 2-3 mil per year) in free agency.
    5) Trade Mallet to Minnesota for their 2nd round pick.
    6) Trade 2014 1st round pick to San Francisco for a 3rd (from Tennessee), 4th, and 2015 1st.
    7) Draft:
    2nd (Minnesota) – DT/DE – Stephon Tuitt
    2nd (own) – G – Gabe Jackson
    3rd (San Francisco from Tennessee) – C – Weston Richburg
    3rd (own) – WR – Jared Abbredaris
    4th (own) – QB – Zach Mettenberger
    4th (San Francisco) – TE – Arthur Lynch
    6th (Philadelphia) – TE – Rob Blanchflower
    6th (own) – RB – Jerrick McKinnon
    6th (Compensatory-Chung) – CB – Aaron Colvin
    6th (Compensatory-Thomas) – G – Spencer Long
    7th (own) – LB – Tyler Starr

    • Pete H. says:

      That would give you a projected 2014 roster of:
      DT (5): Wilfork, Tuitt, Armstead, Siliga, Jones
      DE (4): Jones, Ninkovich, Spencer, Buchanon
      LB (6): Mayo, Collins, Hightower, Fletcher, Beauharnais, White/Davis/Starr
      CB (5): Talib, Dennard, Ryan, Arrington, Green/Colvin
      S (5): McCourty, Gregory, Harmon, T. Wilson, Ebner

      QB (2): Brady, Mettenberger
      OL (starting 5): Solder, Mankins, Connolly, Jackson, Vollmer
      OL (3 reserves): Cannon, Richburg, Kline/Barker/Long/Zusevics/Devey/Mattes
      RB (4): Ridley, Vereen, Bolden, McKinnon/Gray/Dunn
      FB (1): Develin
      TE (4, 1 on PUP): Gronkowski (PUP list), Chandler, Lynch, Blanchflower/Williams
      WR (7): Dobson, Amendola, Thompkins, Boyce, Abbredaris, Slater, Harrison/Moe/McGuffie/Orton

      Special Teams (3): Gostkowski, Allen, Cave

      • Pete H. says:

        Biggest problem I see is that while there is depth at wide receiver and safety, you may not have a great starter at strong safety or on the outside opposite Dobson. You’re looking at Gregory/Harmon and Thompkins/Boyce/Abbredaris/Harrison, respectively. If nobody emerges, these problems would need to wait until next year’s draft, where they would have 2 1sts and a second to target high end talent at these positions as well as nose tackle.

      • I agree with Pete H, you’ve left the safty position in particular unchanged from the underacheaving bunch from this past season.

    • Mike Loyko says:

      If thats they way the off-season and draft goes it will be considered a failure in my opinion.

    • Matt says:

      Wouldn’t be better to trade Mallet to the Texans for there 2nd draft pick 33 over all?
      I don’t think they will draft a QB with there first pick. The QB’s in this years draft are not
      that good.

      • Sure it would but are you convinced Houston feels that way about this years QB’s and Mallett?

        • Matt says:

          Well the Texans coach Bill O’Brien knows what Mallet can do. Having worked with him when he was on the coaching staff with the Pats. And I think that Mallet would know the types of plays that O’Brien would like to have his offence run so he would be way a head of a rookie QB. As for the Rookie QB’s coming in. Lets take Bridewater for example. Many people compare his throwing style to Vince Young. And well all know how that style worked for Young. It also the same style that JaMarcus Russell used.

        • Style may be like Vince Young but Young’s problem was more a failure to read the def and put the ball in the right place as I remember. I can’t say how well Bridgewater will do in that But who says O’Brian will draft Bridgewater? He could just as well be looking at Bortles who I watched pay 3 games this past fall and he appeared to not only be able to read the def but check down on his receivers and make any throw a coach could want even while running to his left, Now you may be right and O’Brian might make a trade as you describe but these kind of trades put new coaches on a very short leash. If Mallett didn’t produce big time in year 1 O’Brian could be gone in year 2. With a rookie the new coach is given 3-4 years leeway. O’Brian would have to be very sure of Mallett to go that route and if that is so then why would Bill even consider trading Mallett rather then trying to extend him?

  20. td says:

    I expect BB to “find” a few FA’s to address real need positions so he doesn’t have to draft for need; that is DLine, interior OLine and a TE or two. DT’s and OG’s and a Center would be tops on my list before Wendell and Connolly get Brady decapitated.

  21. Accuan says:

    This amazing, I’ve never read anything like this coming from any other local media. You’re asking your all pro players to take less but produce at an all pro level ? It’s called exploitation. You don’t give $2 M in base salary to Jerod Mayo, Logan Mankins, Tom Brady, it’s wrong. And It’s not according to Miguel, it’s according to the official state release by NFL teams which are totally public lol. So no it’s “according to one guy’s research” he just copy-paste the document and then says “ok well, that year they that much and next year this much”. Wilfork and Mankins will never restructure, but Wilfork will be ready. Besides, it’s one year left, we’re not talking about DeMarcus Ware who has four years left and averages $10 M a year. It’s one year, they can easily free up $6 M, and Hernandez’s cap ht will most likely be deleted since he’s about to go to jail.

    • trent says:

      I think you are missing the point of a restructure; if a player restructures, he does not lose any money that he was already going to be paid. He is just paid that money in a different form, which can affect how the salary cap is impacted.

      For example, if Logan Mankins is supposed to be paid $6.25M in salary this year, and he restructures that amount to have a $2M salary paid during the season and a $4.25M signing bonus, he gets that $4.25M signing bonus immediately, so he still earns $6.25M this year for himself. The only difference is (1) he gets $4.25M a little earlier than he would’ve previously, and (2) not all of the $6.25M is applied to this year’s cap, as it was previously.

      • Accuan says:

        Of course he won’t restructure, because he’s not cashing in, he’s splitting his salary. Lets say Big Vince reduces it to $5M in base with $1.5M in incentives. He gets cut the year after, doesn’t get squats. Unless his salary is guaranteed (signing bonus whatever) in this case it makes no sense to restructure the guy. You’re not going to restructure a guy on a year deal with guaranteed money just so that it allows you more cap for the current year, and then the year after you can’t trade him with any value in exchange, or cut him, because you’re still paying his contract or even play him because he’s burned. Plus, there could a trade clause, like DeMarcus Ware and Haynesworth, trading the guy will kill your cap even more so in the end you’re stuck with a huge contract for an aging player. It’s just a no issue, really to say this is the problem and not the cap hit which would most likely be deleted.

        • trent says:

          First, my previous comment was regarding restructures–so it pertains only to players with more than one year remaining on their contract. Wilfork does not fit in that category. Wilfork would require an extension, which would include NEW money too–not just splitting his contract, like you are assuming.

          The other thing that needs to be realized here is even though Wilfork would LIKE to earn his $8M this year, is that what he is worth on the open market? A 32yr old 330lb man coming off a torn Achilles. Yes, I love him, but contracts are about future expectations, and he won’t get some 3-yr $30M contract on the open market. So all Vince needs to worry about is what is his best option? If the Patriots offer to extend him, and add some new money to his contract, can he get more than that if they outright cut him and he finds a new suitor? He may not find that much more money, and he understands that.

          So even though Wilfork doesn’t WANT to, it really comes down to what others would be willing to pay for him.

      • Accuan says:

        Wilfork will either cash in , play his current contract, or retire. He’s not re-negotiating. That’s the truth. So that’s why as an accountant, as a member of the front office I would make the decision already in march and not delay it for ongoing months like the Welker debacle. I can imagine his re boots for an achilles tear so he probably will get cut even before he recovers. NFL is a competition if you can’t play you won’t play for the team. Which means NE will use the money elsewhere. Four years ago I posted on the ESPN comment section Jared Allen is signing to New England, so since the Vikings aren’t bringing him back, maybe he does come here. But he cashed in $12 M this year, he’s worth about $8 M a year. You still need a DT and the top DTs in this draft aren’t going to fall at#29, even Big Vince didn’t fall that far. Plus they offered Bryant a contract but he declined, so might not have a success in the draft unless they hate a steal in later rounds, and neither in FA because FAs decline. In 2011 they banked on a bunch DL, so I could see them approaching Allen and Hatcher, in this case Edelman ->

    • Alex (freemanator) says:

      You’ve completely missed the point on how the cap works. Maybe try and re-read the article.

      Restructuring converts salary to signing bonus. A signing bonus is paid upon signing (the clues in the name) so the player gets that straight away. But for cap purposes the bonus is spread out over the time specified in the contract.

      So the player gets the money he was always going to get, and the team get salary cap relief this year, but higher hits in following years. This gives the player more leverage in the future, as they are harder to cut with the dead money on their contracts.

      As for Wilfork. It is hard to know what will happen. But what will almost certainly not happen is the Pats pay him $8m more coming off injury. Whether they redo his deal (an effective cut and resign) or extend him for another couple of years, no way they pay him that much money at his age, coming off injury, when they have the majority of the leverage.

      • Accuan says:

        You don’t understand the pit. He has one year left, this is the final year left. The team is not going to want to extend him and he’s not going to restructure either. It makes no sense to slip his contract into signing bonus if you’re only planning on letting him play one final year.

  22. acm says:

    thanks for the breakdown, ML.

    Two questions – isn’t Dan Connolly a FA? I was under the impression that during this last 2013 season, both he and Wendell were in the final years of their contracts.
    Also, another candidate for contract extension would be Nate Solder, who’s in the final year of his contract. Not sure if this would create or eat up cap space but there is a good chance Pats would try to resign him to a long-term deal either way.

    • Pete H. says:

      Connolly has 1 more year, although as this states, is a candidate to be released if a suitable replacement is found. I don’t think an extension for Solder would save cap space since he’s still on his rookie deal.

  23. antonio says:

    ….any chance we take a shot at alex mack?? all pro center, improves our interior protection. connolly/wendell aren’t good enough. they consistently get beat by bigger defenders. also take a look at arthur jones ( chandlers brother ). solid DT…

    • Would love to see Bill steal Arthur Jones what a team he and Vince would make. It would take big bucks though I think. Any idea how Ravins cap numbers are shaping up?
      Mack at center? Hey why not, but more big bucks, might be better to take one in the draft with a high upside, day one starter, I’d still suggest Travis Swanson. Saw this kid play twice and he is powerful, smooth with quick feet. Already a step up on Windell.

  24. Bababooey830 says:

    I feel so much better after reading this. Almost didn’t want the article to come to an end haha. After resigning Talib, BB needs to either take an A-Level FA like Michael Johnson, or a few B-Level guys. Someone like Hakeem Nicks, a veteran receiver who can make an impact on the cheap.

  25. Jethro says:

    Great work. Mike.

  26. Russell says:

    Great job Mike, thanks well done.

  27. Pete H. says:

    The Patriots’ top 3 free agency priorites are Talib, Talib, and Talib. After that, a tight end and a quality nickel rusher. If Gregory and/or Connolly are cut, they need to be replaced. Add in some cheap re-signs (Fletcher, Aiken, Hooman) and some vet minimum try-outs (Wharton-G, Bishop-LB, Leonard-RB) and you should be able to enter the draft without having to reach for guys (a la Tavon Wilson). Of course, if there is enough space to fit in a wide receiver, that would be lovely.

  28. tbuck says:

    with all that money possibly saved sign d line man and call tony gonzalas try to got him out of retirement he might with a chance for a super bowl ring then draft for o line l backers cb and safty and t ends sum guys may take less for a ring for one year deals go patriots

  29. J H TARBORO says:

    Loyko, great breakdown, that’s how it works!

  30. Trev says:

    Awesome breakdown! I feel a little better about our cap situation after seeing this. Looking forward to your thoughts on how the Pats may attack Free Agency!

  31. Jim R says:

    That’s a lot of work Mike, great job



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