What this means for the Patriots is that they pick up an additional $1.6 million in salary cap space.
My initial thought is that it was no big deal, because 27 other teams would be getting the same space. But on second thought, I think it's significant.
Consider the case of receiver Chad Ochocinco.
Let's say the Patriots decide to part ways with the disappointing Ochocinco, they would absorb a $1.5 million salary cap charge this year and a $1.5 salary cap charge next year (if they decide to spread out the $3 million salary cap charge over two years).
So essentially, this "gift" of $1.6 million in cap space could be viewed as a mulligan for the Patriots in the case of Ochocinco. It helps them easier absorb the dead money on the cap from Ochocinco's contract.
I don't think it means the Patriots will all of a sudden be more aggressive in free agency, but a $1.6 million credit on the salary cap has definite value. Defensive end Mark Anderson is one example of this -- he counted $1.375 million against the salary cap in 2011.
This turn of events also helps explain why the Patriots, and other teams, didn't use the 2010 uncapped season to absorb big payments. There was some talk in New England at the time about possibly doing so with quarterback Tom Brady's new contract.