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Why the New England Patriots will need to create more cap space and how they can do so

Miguel Benzan
Miguel Benzan on Twitter
5 years ago at 8:43 am ET
Posted Under: Free Agency

As of April 9, I have the Patriots 2016 total cap commitments as $153,616,195. The $153,616,195 is for the 77 players on the Patriots roster and it includes the $6,798,400 dead money associated to the contracts that were terminated. The 2016 League cap has been announced to be $155,270,000. The Patriots adjusted cap number of $159,642,451 is $4,372,451 higher than the League Cap because the Patriots carried over $1,347,882 in 2015 cap space to 2016 plus had $3,024,569 in adjustments. So, as of April 9th I have the Patriots to be under their adjusted cap number by about $6 million. So it appears that the Patriots will need to create cap space by releasing veterans or renegotiating existing contracts in order to stay under the cap during the 2016 season. There are plenty of opportunities to do both, thereby opening up millions of dollars under the cap.

The current 6 million in cap space is not enough to do all of the following items

* Sign Jamie Collins to an extension. A deal that is slightly better than Lavonte David would take up over $5 million in cap space
Jamie Collins' extension

* the 2016 draft class and 2016 UDFAs (Undrafted Free Agents) – between $500,000 and $1.5 million in cap space depending on how many draft picks the Patriots end up and where they are in the draft. In the unlikely circumstance that Patriots do not trade any of their 11 draft picks they will lose about $800K in cap space by signing them + UDFAs

* Pay for players 52 and 53 – $900,000

* Pay for the 10-man practice squad – ($6,600 * 17 weeks * 10 players) = $1,122,000. Will round up to $1,500,000 since Patriots typically pay some practice squad players more than the minimum and the Patriots have cut practice squad players after 4PM Tuesday when the player has earned that week’s salary.

* Have a cushion for the NLTBE 46-man active roster bonuses that could be earned by Kuhn, Sheard, Bolden, Kline, Freeny, Amendola, Lewis, Edelman, Vollmer, Solder, Gronkowski, McCourty, Long, McClellin, Martin, Waddle, Cannon, Knighton, Harbor, Ebner, Humber, and Chung. If all twenty-two players play in all sixteen games in 2016, the Patriots will then lose $1,974,063 in cap space. Earned NLTBE 46-man active roster bonuses are the only NLTBE incentives that if earned hits that year’s cap. Quoting the CBA – “Any roster bonus which is deemed not “likely to be earned” based upon the player’s performance during the prior year shall immediately be included in Team Salary when earned.”

* Have a cushion for other reachable NLTBE incentives (1.5 million) which consist of Vollmer’s playing-time incentive ($1 million) and Edelman’s receptions incentives ($500,000).

* Have a cushion to replace injured players during preseason and regular season – $4 to $6 million.

* Have a cushion to extend players during regular season – $1 to $4 million.
Example – Malcolm Butler
Malcolm Butler's extension

* Have a cushion just in case Scott Chandler applies for injury protection. Quoting the CBA – “Beginning in the 2016 League Year, any type of In-jury Protection liability shall be included in Team Salary for the League Year for which such Injury Protection applies, or the League Year in which such Injury Protection is paid, agreed to be paid by settlement, or awarded, whichever is later.” Injury Protection was a benefit for the 2011/2012/2013/2014 and 2015 seasons. Scott Chandler may qualify for Injury Protection since he underwent surgery in the off-season following the season of injury and was released with failed physical designation. If Scott Chandler is approved to get the Injury Protection benefit he will receive an amount equal to 50% of his Paragraph 5 Salary for the 2016 season ($2 million) or $1 million. To learn more about Injury Protection review the CBA’s Article 45.

When determining the cap savings from releasing players, keep in mind the Rule of 51. When a player from the top 51 is released or traded, the base salary of the player with the 52nd-highest cap number is added to the cap. For example, if Marcus Cannon is released, his cap number would be lowered by $3,687,500 although the actual team savings would be only $3,087,500 because another player’s $600,000 base salary would be added to the team cap.

You can see all of the possible cap savings for all of the 2016 Patriots at patscap.com

Here are some possible ways that the Pats could free up cap space.

Please note that I am NOT advocating nor I am suggesting that the Patriots do all of these salary-cap maneuvers.

Please also note that there are over hundreds of ways for the Pats to create cap space. For the sake of brevity, I am choosing not to list them all since most of them are never going to happen. For example, the Patriots could create $4,212,500 in cap space by cutting Jabaal Sheard.

The bolded maneuvers are my current predictions for that particular player. Am NOT predicting that the Patriots will do all of the bolded moves, just that if they do a move with a player, that it will be the bolded one. There is no need for the Patriots to do all of the bolded moves. The players are listed in descending 2016 cap number. Please note that following some option will result in increasing the player’s cap numbers for future seasons.

This list should cover all of the names mentioned by Twitter followers for cap savings possibilities.

1.)Sign Donta’ Hightower to an extension. A deal that is slightly better than Luke Kuechly’s would create $1.251 million in cap space
Donta' Hightower's extension

2.) Restructure Danny Amendola’s deal giving him a signing bonus in return for a lower salary in 2016 with a chance to make up some of the lost money in with incentives – net cap savings of between $2 million and $3 million

3.) Cut Danny Amendola for a net cap savings of $4,070,832

4.) Extend Danny Amendola through the 2018 season so instead of paying him $12 million in cash for two years pay him $12 million for three years.

5.) Give Danny Amendola a paycut of at least $2 million.

6.) Release Sebastian Vollmer for a net cap savings of $2.6 million

7.) Extend Jabaal Sheard through the 2020 season for a net cap savings of 1 million.
Jabaal Sheard' extension

8.) Release Marcus Cannon for a net cap savings of $3,087,500

9.) Release Rob Ninkovich for a net cap savings of $1.475 million.

10.) Release Josh Kline for a net cap savings of $900,000.

11.) Have Chris Jones take a paycut from $1.671 million with a chance to earn some money by reaching incentives – net cap savings ranging from 600K to 800K.

12.) Release Jonathan Freeny for a net cap savings of $887,500

13.) Waive Chris Jones for a net cap savings of $1.071 million

14.) Release KeShawn Martin for a net cap savings of $75,000

15.) Release Brandon Bolden for a net cap savings of $522,500

16.) Waive Aaron Dobson for a net cap savings of $347,505

17.) Waive Jon Bostic for a net cap savings of $417,381

18.) Waive Ishmaa’ily Kitchen for a net cap savings of $160,000

Note that I was asked about the cap ramifications of releasing Nate Solder. Doing so would cause the Patriots to lose cap space since his 2016 cap number would increase from $10,322,666 to $14,333,334 as his 2017 signing bonus proration would accelerate into 2016 and his 2016 salary is fully guaranteed.

Here are the moves that I think that will happen

Extend Hightower
Extend Sheard
Restructure Danny Amendola

As you can see from above, the Pats could create close over 9 million in cap space if they chose to do all of my bolded predictions. Add the 9 million to the current number of $6 million and we get $15 million.

The $15 million should be more than enough to cover the remaining salary cap expenses as well as extend a couple of several key defenders.

The Patriots may wait to do other cap-savings moves for when they need to create cap space or during roster cutdowns.

You can follow me on Twitter at @patscap.

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Posted Under: Free Agency
Tags: amendola cannon collins hightower

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