The New England Patriots currently head into the offseason with just $3.8 million in cap space, but there are things they can do to increase that number. There is a list of Patriots free agents, some they want to keep and some they don’t, but with not enough cap space, the Patriots could be in a bind unless a few things happen:
By doing what the Cardinals just did when they restructured Larry Fitzgerald’s deal on Tuesday with Vince Wilfork, the Patriots could save themselves up to $5 million on their cap and could save $7.505 million by cutting the 32 year old. It seems unlikely that the Patriots would do that, but he is a 325 pound man coming off an Achilles injury and anything is possible.
Isaac Sopoaga, who was disappointing to say the least, will likely be cut. They will have to eat $1 million on his contract, but cutting him will free up $2.005 against the cap for next season.
If the Patriots can somehow rid themselves of the Aaron Hernandez contract, they will save themselves $7.5 million against the cap this season. Hernandez will fight it, which means it likely won’t be settled until after this offseason, unless there is some terminology in the contract that sates otherwise.
By cutting right guard Dan Connoly, the Patriots can save $2.505 million in cap for next season. Center Ryan Wendell is a free agent that can be brought back if Connoly is released to maintain stability at the line. You will definitely see one of those two back as there is a new offensive line coach and the Patriots won’t want to have to replace a guard and a center.
All-pro Logan Mankins has a cap hit of $10.5 million, which even for a great lineman like him is steep. He is a team captain, but the Patriots will likely look to restructure his deal to take some of that pressure off. His play has been spotty this season and extending him is a scary situation, but it may be what the Patriots need to do.
If Edelman walks, the Patriots will need to address the wide receiver situation with someone like Emmanuel Sanders or, my dark horse pick, Robert Meachem. That is on top of the needs at defensive tackle, offensive line depth, linebacking depth and a viable passing option at tight end.
The Patriots have a lot of work to do this offseason if they want to not only come out of the AFC, but win in the Super Bowl against the superior NFC. These are some of the ways the Patriots can go from $3.8 million in cap space to something like $10 or $11 million.