Estimated 2015 Cap Space: -$11.4M ($143M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 61
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 9(3 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 32
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Devin McCourty is one of the best safeties in the NFL and has given New England a very good all around player in the secondary. I would have thought they would have re-signed him by now, which may mean they are considering other options, but at the end of the day I think they keep him. Price may be an issue as top players pushed the market to $9+ million a season last year, which is on the high end for a safety. Given the lack of talent available McCourty could reasonably get that on the open market. New England did not apply the tag on him which may mean they view him at a lesser salary…Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has a proven track record as a Patriot and was named their franchise player. There is little need to carry a kicker on the tag, so I would expect this to lead to a long term contract….Dan Connolly is versatile and should be a low cost option to keep on a two year contract as he finishes out his career.
Free Agents to Let Walk
The Patriots don’t really have much to worry about in this area. I think Shane Vereen thinks he is worth much more than most teams would value him, so I would anticipate New England will make other plans rather than re-signing him…Stevan Ridley has more upside value than Vereen, but if the Patriots continue to treat this as a plug and play position and are happy with LeGarette Blount then Ridley will find a job elsewhere.
Contracts to Modify
When the Patriots signed Darrelle Revis most everyone assumed it was a one year contract due to the $25 million cap charge in 2015. Revis is a very important part of the defense and the best cornerback in the NFL. What makes him even more special is the fact that he is incredibly smart player that isn’t going to significantly decline when he loses a step or two. From a contractual standpoint Revis is difficult to deal with and it is hard to believe that he will go to anyone but the highest bidder. He is probably more willing to not touch his deal in hopes of getting his release to test free agency, but I find this to be the perfect marriage for him in terms of both success and finances, even if he can get a few dollars more in Buffalo or New York…The sky is the limit for Chandler Jones and the Patriots would be wise to extend him after exercising the one year option this offseason. Extending him now gives them an opportunity to prorate money now and get all the guarantees in the contract out of the way before his rookie deal even expires…Nate Solder is on his option year, but it is hard to imagine them paying him a $7 million salary. They should either extend him or find a way to bring that number down.
Players to Consider Releasing
Though Danny Amendola had his playoff moments, now that his guaranteed salary runs out it should make him one of the more attractive cuts for the team. The Patriots gain $2.1 million by releasing him….Linebacker Jerod Mayo signed his extension just at the right time as linebacker salaries were still incredibly high. Now he has the second highest contract at the position and will hold the 2nd highest cap charge and 5th highest cash salary next year. He has been injured the last two seasons and they can gain $4.3 million in space by cutting him. They could consider restructuring his contract, but right now he seems to be Jon Beason without the signing bonus protection….The Vince Wilfork renegotiated deal seemed more like a one year band aid than an actual contract. If he is released and the team fails to pick up his option he will create nearly $8.1 million in cap space for the team. If they plan on keeping Revis at his astronomical cap figure for any period of time I am not sure Wilfork can stay.
After a few rough patches early in the season the Patriots were able to find their way back and eventually win a Super Bowl championship. The organization is the model of consistency and from a roster management standpoint almost completely free of emotion when it comes to making their decisions so you know that no player is safe.
What I find very unique about New England is that they don’t pigeonhole themselves into one specific model. They adapt when the situation presents itself. There are teams that hoard draft picks to the point where they won’t sign a free agent. There are teams that avoid any expensive free agent. There are teams that refuse to break from a mold they use for their contractual structures.
The Patriots just do whatever is in the best interests of the team. The Ravens, Broncos, Packers, etc… would have never signed Revis to the kind of contract that the Patriots did. But the Patriots broke from their norms to do it because they felt it was important for them and too good of a value to pass up even if just for one season. They don’t mind trading out of the first round and would rather amass future assets until the time is ready to strike. Very few teams are willing to do that.
It makes them unpredictable. Is using a franchise tag wise on a safety? Probably not, but in their case maybe it is if they really view this as just one more season with McCourty. Is holding Revis at $25 million even remotely logical? It’s not but if they feel it can help get a better deal done they just may do it.
Unlike some organizations the Patriots model can be followed but it takes a real strict belief and dedication to being correct to do this. Obviously Tom Brady is unique and probably not comparable to any other player from a financial perspective, but this is a relationship that they have cultivated from day 1 and give the team credit for that. Give them credit for approaching him about doing the type of deals he has done. The team philosophy was laid out when he was barely established when they released Lawyer Milloy on the eve of the season. It’s all had an impact.
If the Patriots keep Revis they likely will have little in the way of salary cap dollars to spend this season, but if they release him then they can go out there and add in a few areas. If Vereen walks they could look at a player to replace him in the passing game. Roy Helu could be a nice fit and may have the upside to play on more downs than just third. A moderate cost safety and cornerback could also be in the mix, though more likely that would come through the draft.
The Patriots usually focus on the trenches in the draft so Wilfork’s eventual successor will potentially come from this year’s draft. If they don’t go on the defensive front finding an interior lineman at the end of the first round is also a big possibility. The team doesn’t really have glaring needs so it’s more about preparation for the future. Finding a receiver to eventually crack the lineup or another tight end as injury insurance is possible. Adding a situational pass rusher that can develop into a 3 down player might be a help as would another linebacker.
Every year the Patriots compete deep into the playoff and this year will be no different. This offseason I about adding to the mix such that the team can be ready to move out from the old and in with the new within the next two year. It is what they do best and no doubt that will continue in the future.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.