The New England Patriots are losing talent and veteran leadership in 2020. They're also gaining money that could be used to replace that talent and leadership.
The Patriots already have had five players -- linebacker Dont'a Hightower, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and offensive guard Najee Toran -- opt out of the 2020 NFL season, per reports. (Update: Patrick Chung has since opted out of the 2020 season.)
That means their salaries won't count against New England's 2020 salary cap. Considering Hightower and Cannon were both among the Patriots' 10 highest-paid players, that's a significant amount of money the team freed up.
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According to salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the Patriots now have more than $24 million in available cap space, compared to under $8 million prior to the player opt-outs.
After accounting for— Cap Space=$31,921,135 (@patscap) July 28, 2020
opt-outs of Hightower, Bolden, Cannon, Najee Toran and Danny Vitale,
5 guaranteed salaries added to the Patriots dead money
my new Patriots salary cap space number is $24,195,302. The Patriots now have 76 players on their 2020 roster
As Benzan noted, it's still unclear which Patriots players fall into the NFL's "voluntary opt-out" and "high-risk opt-out" categories, which could impact the Patriots' cap number slightly.
My Patriots salary cap space number will change if some of these opt-outs are voluntary and not high-risk. It may take a few days to find out.— Cap Space=$31,921,135 (@patscap) July 28, 2020
But each of the players' contracts will toll to the 2021 season, meaning the team still will have roughly triple the cap space it had at this point last week.
There still are several high-profile free agents on the open market, most notably edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and linebacker Markus Golden.
The Patriots now have the resources to pursue any of those players in free agency, or swing a trade for another prominent player. In any case, head coach Bill Belichick and his staff must find ways to replace several key members of their organization in 2020.