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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 4:20 pm ET
Posted Under: Free Agency

As of June 28, I have the Patriots 2016 total cap commitments as $150,103,353. The $150,103,353 is for the 90 players on the Patriots roster and it includes the $9,636,113 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 June 28th I have the Patriots to be under their adjusted cap number by $9,539,098.

The current 9.5 million in cap space may be not enough to do all of the following items

* Pay the players’ offseason workout bonus money. Attending a offseason workout session is worth $195 per session. There are about 75 players (rookies cannot) who can earn offseason workout session money in 2016. The Patriots usually have around 32 sessions. $195 * 75 * 32 = $468,000.

* Pay for players 52 and 53 – $900,000. Right now all 32 teams are operating under the Top 51 rule where only the salaries of the players with the 51 highest cap numbers count against the cap. That is, the salaries of the players with the 39th lowest cap numbers are not counting against the cap. For example, Malcolm Butler’s $600,000 salary is not currently counting against the 2017 cap. It will once the Top 51 rules expires on September 8.

* 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. To see the complete list of Patriots players who are eligible for the practice squad please review this blog post of mine.

* Have a cushion for the NLTBE 46-man active roster bonuses that could be earned by Kuhn, Sheard, Bolden, Kline, Freeny, Lewis, Blount, 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 $1,924,063 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 (1.25 million) which consist of Vollmer’s playing-time incentive ($750,000) and Edelman’s receptions incentives ($500,000).

* Have a cushion to replace injured players during preseason and regular season – $4 to $6 million. Under the new CBA the Patriots have placed the following amounts of players on Injured Reserve, PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) or NFI (Non Football Injury)

2011 – 12
2012 – 11
2013 – 13
2014 – 10
2015 – 20

Before the 2015 season started the Patriots placed 8 players on IR and 2 players on PUP. Their cap numbers totaled close to $4.7 million.

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

* Sign Jamie Collins to an extension. A deal that is significantly better than Lavonte David would take up over $5.3 million in cap space
Jamie Collins' 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 options 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 significantly better than Bobby Wagner’s would create $1.251 million in cap space
Donta' Hightower's extension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 salary is fully guaranteed.

Here are the moves that I think that will happen

Extend Hightower
Extend Sheard
Release Cannon

As you can see from above, the Pats could create close over 5 million in cap space if they chose to do all of my bolded predictions. Add the 5 million to the current number of $9.5 million and we get $14.5 million.

The $14.5 million should be more than enough to cover the remaining salary cap expenses as well as extend a couple of several key defenders like Malcolm Butler or a Jamie Collins.

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

Reminder that any unused cap space can be carried over into the 2017 season.

You can follow me on Twitter at @patscap.

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Posted Under: Free Agency
Tags: butler cannon collins hightower

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