One of the reasons that the Patriots decision to release Dominique Easley came as a surprise to many was because of the move's potential financial impact.
Easley was scheduled to make about $1.08 in base salary in 2016, the third year of his rookie deal. By releasing him, the Patriots may absorb a cap charge of about $2.9 million. Contrast that with the $1.9 million cap hit the Patriots would have been charged had they kept Easley, and it becomes clear that the team felt strongly about breaking things off with the 24-year-old.
The Patriots could avoid the larger cap hit if another team claims Easley off of waivers, and given his talent level that could very well be the case. Still, with his injury history, and by becoming available late into the free agency period, there remains the possibility that he clears waivers.
Easley is likely hoping a team will claim him so that he can continue to play on the rookie deal that is scheduled to pay him about $2.5 million in base salary over the next two years. If he's not claimed, he could face a pay cut, though in that scenario he would have the benefit of choosing his next location as a free agent.
Easley's skill set as a penetrating defensive tackle is unique and likely best suited for a 4-3 scheme where he can be used as a situational pass-rusher on the interior. Though he played in only 21 percent of Patriots defensive snaps in his first two seasons (including playoffs), Easley proved to be one of the best in the game in that role last year when healthy. According to Pro Football Focus, he had one quarterback pressure for every six pass-rush snaps in 2015, which placed him ahead of top talents at the position like Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Teams looking for help getting after the quarterback that could potentially have some interest in Easley's services include Carolina, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Detroit. The Rams, who lost penetrating tackle Nick Fairley to the Saints in free agency this offseason, could be suitors as well.