DEARBORN, Michigan -- We know that Tom Brady's contract extension is really, for all intents and purposes, just a raise for 2019. We also know that the years tacked onto Brady's deal allow the Patriots to reduce his salary-cap hit for 2019.
What we don't know is how the Patriots might plan to use that recently-acquired space to help out the 42-year-old.
Brady was scheduled to make $15 million and carry a $27 million cap hit in 2018. By going into the final year of his contract, that was far and away the weightiest cap hit on New England's books as the team rolled through its roster-building period. According to ESPN, Brady's new deal will free-up about $5.5 million in cap space.
We'll wait to see exactly what the numbers look like when they're available, but when we spoke to former agent and NFL analyst Joel Corry back in February, he projected that the Patriots would be able to save about $5 million in cap space with a Brady extension.
The Patriots will very likely have somewhere in the range of $13 million in cap space following the execution of Brady's new deal. So what will they do with it?
There are a handful of spots on the roster that could use a lift -- tight end receiver, offensive tackle -- all of which would help Brady's chances of putting together another high-caliber season. But to go out and make a splashy trade to acquire a boatload of cap space, particularly at this point in the season, isn't exactly Bill Belichick's modus operandi.
The Patriots are going to need salary-cap space for midseason trades or signings and so there's a certain amount of cap space that they'd like to set aside for those situations. But there are ways in which the team could create additional space -- extensions for Devin McCourty and Kyle Van Noy make sense -- which then might make the Patriots a little more willing to use up their newfound space before the season begins.
Does that mean the team suddenly feels it has enough breathing room to go make a trade for Washington Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams (about an $11 million cap hit)? From this perspective that seems unlikely, particularly with a first-round pick from 2018, Isaiah Wynn, who is progressing from injury and could be ready to play that position Week 1.
Does it mean they'll want to add to their receiving corps with a player going into the last year of his contract? Denver's Emmanuel Sanders is someone in whom they've shown interest in the past but his cap hit is in the double digits as well and the Broncos might admit they were punting on 2019 if they were to deal off one of their top players.
At tight end, the pickings seem slim. Niners tight end Garrett Celek would make some sense as he plays for a team with whom the Patriots have dealt in the past and his cap hit wouldn't be at all prohibitive (about $2 million). But he's coming off of offseason back surgery and won't be available until mid-season.
Again, the Patriots could sit on the cap space they have. They know there's a chance they'll have to use it midseason. But if they wanted to improve their team in the here-and-now via trade, and in the process take on a player who'd take up a few million in cap space, Brady's new contract could help them do just that.
Running an offensive huddle that at times seems light on talent this summer, Brady probably wouldn't fight the team on it if they wanted to put some of the financial breathing room he gave them to good use.