Braxton Berrios among four Patriots claimed off waivers, three by AFC East teams

Braxton Berrios among four Patriots claimed off waivers, three by AFC East teams

The New England Patriots had some tough decisions to make during 2019 roster cuts and as a result, they parted with some talented players. Those players didn't stay on the free-agent market for very long.

The Patriots saw four of their roster cuts get claimed by other NFL teams. More specifically, three of the players were claimed by two AFC East teams, the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins.

Per ESPN's Field Yates, the Jets claimed Patriots wide receiver Braxton Berrios off waivers.

And per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Brian Flores-coached Dolphins claimed defensive end Trent Harris and cornerback Ken Webster from the team.

Of the three players claimed, Berrios was probably the most talented. A 2018 six-round pick out of Miami, Berrios spent his rookie season on IR but was expected to emerge as a contender as a backup slot receiver and punt returner for the team this year.  Instead, undrafted free agents Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski were able to challenge for those respectively and there simply wasn't room for Berrios.

The Patriots may have wanted to sneak Berrios to the practice squad, but they weren't able to do it. Now, he will have a chance to lock down a role with the Jets, who are light on talented receivers.

As for the Dolphins claims, Harris and Webster were both roster long-shots. Harris played collegiately at Miami, so he'll be returning to that area. He was a practice squad contributor for the Patriots in 2018 as a rookie. Webster was in a crowded cornerback room and despite being a seventh-round pick, he had little chance to make the roster. 

These three players weren't the only Patriots players that got claimed off waivers. Undrafted tight end/fullback Andrew Beck was claimed off waivers by the Denver Broncos according to multiple reports. He was the Patriots' highest-paid undrafted rookie this season.

CURRAN: Patriots receiver landscape for Week 1? It's complicated>>>

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Patriots cap space explosion could complicate things with Cam Newton

Patriots cap space explosion could complicate things with Cam Newton

The Patriots care about locker room dynamics. They pay attention to the way in which the contractual hierarchy is structured.

That's why their newfound cap space might force a conversation with Cam Newton.

As part of the newly amended collective bargaining agreement, signed on Monday night, it was determined that 2020 cap hits for players who opt out would be kicked down the road to 2021. That includes the prorated portions of signing bonuses that have already been paid out. 

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That late adjustment to the CBA freed up additional cap space for all teams with players who a) opted out and b) had prorated signing bonus amounts count against the 2020 cap.

For example, as Patriots cap expert Miguel Benzan points out, the amount the Patriots saved on Dont'a Hightower changed with this week's adjustment. Previously, his opt-out saved the Patriots $7.85 million. Now, with the prorated portion of his signing bonus adding to that number, his opt-out saves the Patriots $10.35 million. 

In all, the Patriots now have over $35 million in cap space. It wasn't all that long ago that the team hovered under $1 million

So what do they do with their money now?

They could choose to spend in order to buttress the positions that just saw players leave: linebacker, safety, offensive tackle, tight end. They could add to a position group, like the interior of the defensive line, that could benefit from some depth. 

There are talented players available. Marcel Dareus is hanging around and could strengthen New England's defensive line by complementing Lawrence Guy, Beau Allen and Adam Butler.

Jadeveon Clowney, Clay Matthews, Jabaal Sheard and Everson Griffin are available to man the edge of someone's defense. Eric Reid and Tony Jefferson are still available at safety.

Demar Dotson (formerly of the Bucs), Cordy Glenn (Bengals), Jordan Mills (Cardinals), Greg Robinson (Browns) and LaAdrian Waddle (Bills) are around if the Patriots are looking for a Marcus Cannon replacement to come from outside the organization.

Delanie Walker or Ed Dickson (who played with Newton from 2014-2017 as a member of the Panthers) are free-agent veterans at tight end

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But if the Patriots spend a significant chunk of change on any of them, they might have to adjust the contract of the man who looks like the favorite to be their starting quarterback in 2020. 

Newton signed for the veteran minimum on an incentive-laden deal that could grow to more than $7 million. Still, it's a veteran minimum deal. How would it sit with Newton if the team gave Dotson or Walker a few million to help them fill a role that suddenly needs filling? What would that do to locker room dynamics? 

The Patriots could choose to take all the cap space they've been afforded and hold onto it. They may need to make more in-season signings than usual due to COVID. There's enough uncertainty these days that prudence might be the best course of action. Then they could roll over that cap space to 2021 and — even though the cap will be reduced and could drop as low as $175 million from almost $200 million this year — be real players in the free-agent market when other teams have to slash payroll just to become cap compliant. 

But if they don't take that route, if they add veterans to their team by using real money, that could spur action with the man who could be shouldering quite a bit of offensive pressure as the Patriots play out their first season of the post-Tom Brady era. Even if they don't add pieces — unless they tell Newton they have to hold onto their cap space because these are uncertain times — Newton might have an argument to be given a bump in pay.

For Newton, the conversation might start with somehow turning those incentive dollars into guarantees. After all, Marcus Mariota is getting more than $7 million to be the backup in Vegas. Teddy Bridgewater picked up $7 million from the Saints as he tried to get his career back on track. Should Newton not be afforded at least the same amount as the most accomplished of that quarterback-revival-tour trio?

The Patriots couldn't give Newton that kind of deal when they signed him. They were up against it with the cap. But after all these opt-outs, that's no longer the case.

And while that means they're afforded the opportunity to add talent to their locker room, it also might mean they have to revisit the contract of the player who looks like the favorite to man their most important position.

What impressed LeSean McCoy the most about Tom Brady at first Bucs practice

What impressed LeSean McCoy the most about Tom Brady at first Bucs practice

LeSean McCoy has played 11 NFL seasons with three different teams and just won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs.

But the veteran running back had never played with a six-time Super Bowl champion before hitting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice field with Tom Brady on Tuesday.

Needless to say, McCoy found out pretty quickly what separates the former New England Patriots quarterback from his peers.

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"I've scrimmaged Tom in the past. We're pretty cool," McCoy told reporters Tuesday after officially signing with the Bucs earlier in the day. " ... But to actually see him work, I mean, he's like a general leading the troops, teaching them what he wants in the routes, things like that."

Brady threw passes to McCoy, tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Mike Evans and other Bucs skill players during Tuesday's session. According to McCoy, the 43-year-old QB turned some heads on the practice field with his high level of play.

"He looked real good," McCoy said. "As he was throwing the ball, I heard a couple of guys whisper, 'Dang, how many years do you think he'll play?' That's how good he looked. Seriously."

While we shouldn't put too much stock in a throwing session without defenders, McCoy also seemed impressed by how Brady carried himself.

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"Me and Gronk talked about it: His will to win, his will to go out there and keep doing it -- once you see a guy like that display that attitude, you want to be a part of it," McCoy said. "He looked good today, in good shape. Threw the ball very well. He's like a coach with a helmet on."

That assessment shouldn't surprise Patriots fans who saw Brady lead New England to nine Super Bowl appearances over 20 seasons. It's also a big reason why McCoy says he's in Tampa Bay despite considering a reunion with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this offseason.

"I mean, come on. I'm in Tampa, nice weather, playing with Tom Brady. How can you beat that?"