Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Taking stock of Patriots' salary cap
By Mike Reiss
Now that we have definitive financial details on contracts signed by receivers Julian Edelman (4 years) and Brandon LaFell (3 years); cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (2 years) and Brandon Browner (3 years); and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (2 years), there is a better feel for where things stand with the New England Patriots' salary cap.
Salary-cap space is often fluid, so we'll focus on the general range of $4-7 million in space for the Patriots at this time.
That's not a lot of breathing room on the $133 million cap, especially when it comes to factoring in space needed to sign draft picks. Also, only the top 51 contracts are accounted for when factoring salary-cap space at this time on the NFL calendar.
As is often stated, a team can quickly alter its salary-cap picture with a few transactions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example, created about $16 million in space when they released Revis last week.
With this in mind, here are a few areas where the Patriots might seek cap relief:
Vince Wilfork -- The defensive captain has an $11.6 million salary-cap charge. The Patriots would gain about $7.6 million in space if Wilfork is not on the roster, but that would also create a rather large void at the heart of the defense. The team would seemingly like to have the best of both worlds -- Wilfork on the roster, but at a reduced cap charge.
Dan Connolly -- The starting right guard is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3 million in 2014, and will count $4 million on the cap. If he isn't on the roster, the team would pick up about $2.6 million in space, but it would also create an opening on the line to fill. Similar to Wilfork, the Patriots would seemingly like to have the best of borh worlds -- Connolly on the roster, but at a reduced cap charge.
Adrian Wilson -- The veteran safety who spent last season on injured reserve has a $1.8 million cap charge. He looked to be in jeopardy of not making the roster out of training camp last year, which would seem to put his spot on the team in 2014 in jeopardy. The Patriots would pick up just shy of $1 million in space if he's not on the roster.
Devin McCourty -- A foundation player who figures to be approached about a contract extension at some point, he counts $5.1 million against the salary cap in 2014, which is the final year of his initial rookie contract. A big-money extension could create space in the $2-3 million range depending on the way it's structured.
Stephen Gostkowski -- The reliable kicker has a $3.8 million cap charge in the final year of his contract. Similar to McCourty, he's a candidate for an extension that could create some breathing room on the cap.
Logan Mankins -- The perennial Pro Bowl guard is scheduled to earn $6.2 million in base salary this season. The Patriots could turn that into a signing bonus and protate it over the remaining three years of the deal, which would lower the 2014 cap charge but increase the cap charge in 2015 and 2016 to potentially set up a similar situation to what the Patriots have now with Wilfork.
QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: In putting this list together, a hat tip is warranted for Miguel Benzan of PatsFans.com, who does meticulous work on the cap. Some of his latest work on the Patriots' cap situation can be read here, and he keeps an updated snapshot of the team's salary-cap status that is often a nice guide. If there is one thought to sum it all up, it's that a big-money signing or acquisition (e.g. Jared Allen/DeSean Jackson) seems highly unlikely at this point. At some point down the line, the Patriots could get some relief from Aaron Hernandez's $7.5 million cap charge, but there is nothing imminent on that front as we understand it. That figures to be a longer process.