Remember when the cash-strapped New England Patriots entered the 2020 NFL Draft with a paltry $1.07 million in cap space?
It's safe to say they're no longer cash-strapped.
Teams are set to gain additional cap space after the NFL management council informed them that signing bonus prorations for players who opted out of the 2020 NFL season will be removed from the team's payroll and toll to 2021 instead, per NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.
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For example: #Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James opted out yesterday. Not only does his $10 million salary come off the books for 2020, so does the $3M prorated portion of his signing bonus for a total of $13M in cap relief. The entire contract tolls, not just the cash.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 4, 2020
What does this mean for the Patriots, who have had an NFL-high eight players back out of the 2020 season already? According to Patriots cap wizard Miguel Benzan, New England's available cap space increases by roughly $9.2 million, from $26 million to $35.28 million.
My new Patriots salary cap space number after Matt LaCosse's opt-out is $26,045,302. Please note this number will increase by $9,237,499 if the COVID Amendments to the CBA indeed moves 2020 signing bonus proration into 2021. Waiting on an agreement to be finalized.— Cap Space=$31,921,135 (@patscap) August 2, 2020
My new 2020 Patriots salary cap space number is $35,282,801. These signing bonus prorations will now become part of the player's 2021 cap number. https://t.co/YUwgf72Ksp— Cap Space=$31,921,135 (@patscap) August 4, 2020
According to OverTheCap.com, the Patriots now have the third-most cap space of any NFL team -- behind only the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Football Team -- after entering the draft with the least cap space.
That's a double-edged sword, of course: New England has gained so much cap space because it has lost so many well-paid, key contributors like linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon.
Training camp is ramping up this week, so the Patriots may look to fill that personnel void by signing free agents or swinging trades. While they may not spend big on a marquee name like pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, they certainly have the resources to add some quality talent.