Fans of the Patriots (or fans of those who scan the daily transactions around the NFL) have probably noticed a recurring pattern the last two weeks regarding CB Marquice Cole:
Cole is limited in practice all week
The Patriots release him before Sunday’s game
The following Week they re-sign Cole
Cole again does not practice
Cole is released again
And most likely we can keep repeating that until the season is over or Cole is healthy enough to actually play on Sunday.
What New England is doing is essentially using loopholes in the CBA to basically put Cole on their own version of IR with the designation to return while protecting their own financial interests. By waiting until the end of the week to release Cole, Cole receives his full salary, $42.058.82 per week, and will never miss a game check provided they continue re-signing him to a contract after Sunday’s game.
Termination pay is that guarantee everyone always talks about when a veteran player makes the week 1 roster. In Cole’s case he would be eligible to receive the balance of his $715,000 salary, which at the time of his first release was $546,765 and this week would be $504,706, once released. However, because Cole never misses a game check he is ineligible to claim Termination Pay following the season.
If New England did what many would think is the normal routine of releasing a player and then re-signing him when he is expected to contribute the Patriots would have to pay Cole both the balance of his Termination Pay plus his salary on the new contract. So if they had released him outright last week and waited until week 8 to bring him back Cole could file a claim to receive his $546,765 and collect 8 weeks of salary on top of that amount. By releasing him after Tuesday the most he could have earned is the $546,765. This is why he will likely be back by next Wednesday and if he still can not play be released by Friday. If New England placed Cole on IR his season would be over, which they don’t want to have happen.
The risks for New England are minimal with this strategy. Cole does not need to clear waivers until after the trade deadline and its unlikely any team would sign him if he has a minor injury anyway, so there is a great chance that Cole is always going to re-sign with New England once asked. In fact it is probably agreed upon before the release that he will be back and not entertain offers from other teams. The team most likely will replace him with a Practice Squad player who will need to clear waivers once released, but considering the player has been free for any other team to sign off the Practice Squad anyway, waivers are not a concern. If a team wanted him that badly they would have made an offer before this time.
So it’s a small but neat little aspect of roster management going on in New England right now that ensures they have the players they want at the price they want for the remainder of the season.