The Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots head into the 2018 offseason with around $17.5M in Top 51 cap space to work with out of the gate. According to our data, 51 contracts are signed for next season at the time of this article, and only $948,747 of dead cap has been accrued. The focus for New England over the next month will be two-fold: Lock in a few notable pending free agents, and ascertain the futures of key core players who may be on the fence. We’ll take a deeper look at these scenarios below.
The biggest area of concern for now heading toward March 14th free agency will be the expiring contracts of a few offensive linemen. LT Nate Solder had another above average season, and is calculating toward Top 3 tackle money, currently valuing around $13.2M. Add in the pending free agency of OT Cameron Fleming & OT LaAdrian Waddle, and the Patriots have work to do to maintain Brady’s line depth going forward.
In terms of offensive weapons a few names stand out. 32-year-old WR Danny Amendola had a nice season in the absence of an injured Edelman, and shouldn’t come at much cost to keep in the fold should New England wish to. The same can’t be said for 27-year-old RB Dion Lewis, who had a breakout season in both the run & pass game. His value sits at a nice round $5M figure, a figure New England generally doesn’t pay to one RB. Counterpart Rex Burkhead is also on an expiring contract, and while his production didn’t stand out, his 8 total TDs certainly made an impact in 2017.
On the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm Butler didn’t see a snap in Super Bowl 52, but his production over the past two seasons (in the shadow of others) still projects him to a $13M/year contract on the open market. He’s expected to find a new home in 2018.
Football fans across the board will have a close eye on the future decisions of HC Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, and TE Rob Gronkowski this spring, as all have been speculated to be considering retirement.
Tom Brady, QB
Brady will be 41 by the time the 2018 season kicks off, but has two years and a total of $30M cash remaining on his current contract. He carries cap hits of $22M in both 2018 & 2019, and none of his salary guarantees until the start of the season.
If Brady retires this spring: The Patriots will likely process this transaction after June 1st, allowing them to split his $14M in dead up at $7M in 2018, and $7M in 2019. The move would clear $15M in cap space for 2018.
If Brady retires after the 2018 season: The Patriots will take a $7M dead cap hit regardless of when the move is processed.
Rob Gronkowski, TE
Like Brady, Gronk has two years remaining on his current contract, including $19M of potential cash, and cap figures of $10.9M, & $12M respectively. This $9.5M average salary ranks #1 among signed Tight Ends, but Gronk may be seeking guaranteed salary going forward.
If Gronk retires this spring: The Patriots will incur a $4M dead cap hit that can be split into $2M in 2018, and $2M in 2019 if the move is processed after June 1st.
If Gronk retires after the 2018 season: The Patriots will incur a $2M dead cap hit, regardless of when the move is processed.