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Previewing the New England Patriots 2016 Salary Cap (Part 1) – Updated on December 6th

Miguel Benzan
Miguel Benzan on Twitter
6 years ago at 6:04 pm ET
Posted Under: Free Agency

A couple of my Twitter followers asked for a New England Patiots 2016 salary cap preview. Please note that I have used Brian McFarland’s preview of the Ravens 2016 salary cap a template for this blog post.

These numbers were last updated on December 6, 2015.

Quick summary – The Patriots are going to have to make several difficult decisions in the next year about which young players to retain. I will presume that the 2016 salary cap will be $154 million. Given that we are about 4 months away from the start of the 2016 League Year (4PM, March 9) this preview is probably a bit premature so I plan to update this in February after the Super Bowl.

PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT
The Patriots presently have the following 52 players under contract for 2016 (with Cap Numbers indicated):

QBs (2): Tom Brady ($15M); Jimmy Garoppolo ($950,154)

RBs (5): Brandon Bolden ($1,263,125); Dion Lewis ($1.0875M); James White ($699,272); Tyler Gaffney ($600K); Trey Williams ($525K)

WRs (5): Danny Amendola ($7,585,416); Julian Edelman ($4,421,875); Brandon Lafell ($3.675M); Aaron Dobson ($1,090,845); Tamaris Johnson ($760K)

TE (5): Rob Gronkowski ($6.65M); Scott Chandler ($3.050M); Asante Cleveland ($600K); Michael Williams ($525K); A.J. Derby ($478,013)

OL (8): Nate Solder ($10,322,666); Sebastian Vollmer ($7,020,834); Marcus Cannon ($4,754,168); Josh Kline ($2.2M); Bryan Stork ($719,250); Tre’ Jackson ($655,935); Shaq Mason ($635,881), David Andrews ($530K)

DL (9): Chandler Jones ($7.799M); Jabaal Sheard ($6.8125M); Rob Ninkovich ($4.75M); Alan Branch ($2.6M); Dominique Easley ($1,991,877); Malcom Brown ($1,730,280); Chris Jones ($1.668M); Geneo Grissom ($680,487); Trey Flowers ($664,733)

LBs (7): Jerod Mayo ($11.4M); Dont’a Hightower ($7.751M); Jonathan Freeney ($1.5M); Jamie Collins($1,196,683); Jonathan Bostic($942,381); Darius Fleming ($675K); Dane Fletcher ($600K)

CBs (3): Logan Ryan ($1,828,813); Malcolm Butler ($600K); Darryl Roberts ($463,556);

S (4): Devin McCourty ($8M); Patrick Chung ($3.3M); Jordan Richards($843,534); Duron Harmon ($814.4K);

ST (4): Stephen Gostkowski ($4.1M) Matthew Slater ($1,766,668); Ryan Allen ($1.7M); Joe Cardona ($587.5K)

The above 52 players are under contract for a total Salary Cap commitment (which includes dead money from players no longer on the team) of $152,983,496.

Initial projections have estimated that the 2016 Salary Cap would see an increase of $11M, moving the Cap up to around $154M.

So, using the figure of $154M for the estimated Cap, the Patriots will initially have around $1,016,504 in Cap space.

This will be the basis for early reports on the status of the Patriots’ Salary Cap, but it’s important to keep in mind that this number is based only on the 52 players that are presently under contract and nowhere near representative of the team’s Cap with a full roster.

So, between now and March 9th at 4:00 p.m., when the new league year begins and free agency begins, the Patriots will have a lot of work to do.

PRACTICE SQUAD FREE AGENTS (FAs)
In past years, the Patriots have usually re-signed all of their Practice Squad players to contracts for the coming year. The announcement of those signed should come right after the Super Bowl.

The 10 players currently on the Practice Squad are:

TE – Joseph Fauria
WR – Austin Hill
CB – Chris Greenwood
S – Brock Vereen
G – Chris Barker
FB – Joey Iosefa
OL – Keavon Milton
DT – Kelcy Quarles
OL – Torrian Wilson
WR – Chris Harper

Austin Hill, Chris Harper, and Torrian Wilson will be signed to one-year contracts of $450K. Based on already having a credited season in the NFL, Chris Barker, Joey Iosefa, Kelcy Quarles and Keavon Milton would receive one-year contracts of $525K. With two credited seasons, Joseph Fauria, Chris Greenwood, and Brock Vereen would receive a one-year contracts of $600K. The $600K quartet will displace one player with a $450K salary and three players with a $525K salary from the Top 51 list increasing the total cap commitment by $375K. Patriots total cap commitment after signing their practice squad is $153,358,496.

2015 SALARY CAP CARRYOVER
Under the terms of the CBA, teams are now allowed to carry over excess Salary Cap space from one year to the next. The Patriots are already very tight against the Salary Cap, with only around $1.9M in available Cap space at this time. As more injuries occur and further injury replacements acquired, the amount the Patriots can carry over into 2016 will dwindle. As of 12/6 I am projecting that the Patriots will end the 2015 season with $1.7 million in cap space. Add $1.7m to our League Cap Projection of $154m and we now have the Patriots adjusted cap as $155.7 million. Subtract Pats commitment of $153,358,496 from $155.7 million and we get about $2.4 million in cap space with 62 players on the Patriots 2016 roster.

OTHER SALARY CAP ADJUSTMENTS
WORKOUT BONUS ADJUSTMENT: All teams will have an adjustment of $561,600 (80 players times 36 workouts times $195 per workout) added to their Cap for team workout bonuses. This number is essentially the total amount of CBA mandated workout bonuses that could be earned by the players in the offseason. This amount is a debit from the Cap. Once training camp begins, this debit will be removed and the actual amount of workout bonuses earned by the players will be added onto the Cap. Add $561,600 to the Total Cap Commitment number and we get $153,920,096. Subtract $153,920,096 from $155.7 million and we get around 1.8 million in cap space.

INCENTIVE ADJUSTMENTS:The Patriots’ 2016 Cap will also see adjustments for incentives earned that didn’t count against the 2015 Cap (“Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives) that were actually earned and incentives that did count against the 2015 Cap (“Likely To Be Earned” incentives) but weren’t earned.

The total of these incentive adjustments are usually not disclosed until the beginning of the 2016 league year in March. I currently project that the Patriots will get a credit of $2,025,625. See my blog post that tracks the Patriots incentives to see the underlying details behind this projection. Add 2 million to the prior Patriots adjusted cap number of $155.7 million and we now have our final projection of the Patriots 2016 adjusted cap number as $157.7 million. Subtract $153,920,096 from $157.7 million and we get about $3.8 million in cap space.

2011/2012 CAP ADJUSTMENT REPAYMENT: When the new CBA was agreed upon in 2011, the Salary Cap saw a reduction and, for the first few years, stagnation. Foreseeing this, the terms of the CBA allowed for teams to borrow ($3M in 2011; $1.5M in 2012) against future Caps, but forced teams to repay that amount during the 2014 through 2017 league years. The CBA left it up to the team to decide when to repay those amounts. I have been unable to determine if the Patriots borrow any cap space in 2011 or in 2012. But if they did, they will have to pay it back by the 2017 season.

AARON HERNANDEZ: While I expect the Patriots to receive a $3.25M credit for Aaron Hernandez, I expect the credit to come in the 2017 season. I detailed why in this linked blog post.

PROVEN PERFORMANCE ESCALATOR: The Patriots have 2 players who were drafted in the 3rd through 7th rounds of the 2013 draft who are likely to achieve the Proven Performance Escalator, thereby seeing their base salaries rise from the scheduled amount of $675K up to the (estimated) low RFA tender amount of $1.668M. Since the 2011 CBA mandated 4-year contracts for all draft picks, thus removing the player’s chance to receive the higher paying RFA tender in their 4th year, the Proven Performance Escalator was put in place to allow lower draft picks to make the equivalent of the low RFA tender if they performed well. The player’s “performance” is measured by playing time, so the escalator is earned if the player either (1) plays in 35% of offensive or defensive snaps in 2 of the player’s first 3 seasons or (2) plays in 35% of the cumulative snaps over his first 3 seasons.

The 2 Patriots who have already earned the escalator are DT Chris Jones and CB Logan Ryan. My projected salaries of $1.668M for them are already included in the total cap commitment number of $153,632,596.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (ERFAs)
These players must be tendered contracts of the league minimum, based on the player’s length of service in the league ($600K, $525K or $450K). Once tendered, these players are fully under the team’s control and are not free to negotiate with other teams.

The Patriots have 6 players who will become Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs) after this season

OT – Cameron Fleming ($600K)
WR – Josh Boyce ($525K)
OT – Kevin Hughes ($525K)
CB – Justin Coleman ($525K)
S – Brandon King ($525K)
LB – Rufus Johnson ($525K)

In the past, the Patriots have usually tendered all of their ERFAs who played some during the regular season. The Patriots have sometimes not tendered a player who spent the entire prior season on IR (Greg Orton – 2014 season). Tendering their 6 ERFAs will increase the Patriots total commitment by $75,000 as Cameron Fleming will displace a player with a $525K salary from the Top 51 list. Our new total cap commitment number is $153,995,096. Subtract that from our $157.7m projection for the 2016 Patriots adjusted cap number and we get about $3.7 million in cap space.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (RFAs)
These are players whose contracts have expired and who have 3 years of accrued service time. The team must tender the player with an RFA offer. Once tendered, another team can sign the player to a RFA offer sheet, but the Patriots then have 7 days to match that offer sheet and retain the player under the terms of that offer sheet. If the Patriots were to choose not to match the offer sheet, they would then receive compensation based on the level of RFA tender made to the player.

There are 3 RFA Tenders

* 1st Round Tender: allows the team to receive compensation of a 1st round – $3.586M (est)
* 2nd Round Tender: allows the team to receive compensation of 2nd round pick – $2.52M (est)
* Low Tender: allows the team to receive compensation of a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted or the Right of First Refusal (ROFR) for an undrafted player – $1.668M (est)

Note: The 2011 CBA eliminated the “high” tender of 1st and 3rd round draft picks as compensation

The above Tender amounts are just estimates at this point. Under the terms of the CBA, the RFA Tender amounts increase at the same rate as the overall Salary Cap, with the minimum increase being 5%. An increase in the Salary Cap from $143.28M to $154M would represent a 8% increase in the Cap, so the above estimates for the RFA tenders are based on a 8% increase over the 2015 RFA tenders.

The Patriots have 4 players who are scheduled to be Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) after the 2015 season.

DT – Sealver Siliga (undrafted)
FB – James Develin (undrafted)
CB – Rashaan Melvin (undrafted)
WR – Brian Tyms (undrafted)

Over the years, the Patriots have tendered some of their RFAs and non-tendered others with the hopes of re-signing them to cheaper 1- or 2-year deals with a small signing bonus and veteran minimum salaries. The veteran minimum salary for Develin and Siliga for 2016 is $760K while the minimum salary for Melvin and Tyms is $675K.

It is very possible that the Patriots will not tender all 4 of the above RFAs.

Keeping in mind, though, that RFA/ERFA tenders are not guaranteed, so just because a player is tendered (as either as a RFA or ERFA) that is no guarantee that the player will ultimately make the final 53-man roster.

PROJECTED ADJUSTED TEAM CAP AND RULE OF 51 SALARY CAP COMMITMENT

Based on all of the above, I am projecting that the Patriots will have an adjusted Team Salary Cap of $157.7M. The team’s adjusted Cap consists of the projected league-wide Salary Cap of $154M, plus the carryover of the 2015 excess Cap space of $1.7M (estimated), and incentive/Cap repayment adjustments (est. $2M).

So, for the purposes of this projection – and presenting the worst place scenario as the starting point – if the team signs and tenders all of their practice squad players and ERFAs and prior to the team making any other roster moves (releases or retirements) or the restructure of any contracts, the team will have 68 players under contract.

During the offseason, though, when rosters can balloon to up to 90 players, only the highest 51 Salary Cap numbers (and all 2015 bonus prorations and all dead money from released players) are counted for Salary Cap purposes.

As such, the Patriots’ estimated Rule of 51 number – again, if they sign all 10 practice squad players and tender all 6 ERFAs would be a Cap commitment of just under $154M

Estimates
2016 Cap-154m
2015 Carryover-1.7m
2016 Adjustments-2m
2016 Pats adjusted cap- 157.7m
Cap Commitment (69 players)-154m
Space=4m

That would leave the Patriots projected 2016 cap number at $3.7M under their projected adjusted cap number. They will likely release some players and restructure some contracts in order to create more cap space. I will talk about those moves in Part 2.

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Posted Under: Free Agency

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