Patriots

What should the Patriots do with sudden cap windfall?

What should the Patriots do with sudden cap windfall?

The league stripped the Patriots of a third-round pick (still waiting for official announcement and explanation by the way) and restored $6.55M worth of cap space over the weekend.

This is not a “you win some, you lose some…” deal.

It’s more like “you lose some and … sometimes you get a refund that you are owed…”

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Regardless, the team now has $7.79M in cap space. Because of dead cap space gobbled up by Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, Michael Bennett and Brown, the Patriots have had to scrimp this offseason.

Now that they’re a little bit flush, there are a lot of thoughts on how they should spend their dough. When news of the reimbursement was announced, Patriots Twitter echoed with pleas of “#CLOWNEY?!?!?!”

But Jadeveon Clowney — a 27-year-old, card-carrying, game-wrecker with an array of skills that would make Bill Belichick get tingly — isn’t real likely. Nor are Snacks Harrison and Markus Golden, two other talented defensive players still on the market.

The least sexy, most practical option — squatting on most of it — is the likeliest scenario. That’s because the $7.79M is going to evaporate pretty quickly.

Start with the “per game roster bonuses” the Patriots use as a staple of their contracts.

Cam Newton has $700,000 worth of those in his deal ($43,750 per game). Since he only played two games last season, most of the $700,000 isn’t included in the Patriots cap yet. Every game he plays past last year’s output will hit the cap.

Overall, the Patriots have $15.6M in per game roster bonuses allocated. For most guys, that’s no big deal cap-wise. Julian Edelman has $900,000 in per game bonuses but since he played 16 games last year, it’s expected he’ll earn that money so it’s already counting against the cap.

But the Patriots — in contrast to teams like the Ravens and Steelers who have no money allocated to players in per game roster bonuses — will have a few players like Newton, David Andrews ($400K total), and Adrian Phillips ($500K total) who will have money hitting the cap as the year progresses.

Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: Did Pats just become Cam Newton's team? | Listen and subscribe | Watch on YouTube

I asked Jason Fitzgerald from OverTheCap.com about the per-game roster bonuses and the Pats newfound dough. 

“They should be OK with the (per game bonuses) since most are already counting on the cap,” he replied. “It would be more of a problem if most were not counting (i.e. a player missed all of 2019). … “Still, it’s not a ton of cap space. They will need to account for $1M or so for the practice squad. Another $2M or so for the increase from 51 to 55 players (through the offseason, only the 51 most expensive players count against the cap; all 55 on the active roster count once the first week of the season arrives). Players injured in preseason (will need settlements and payouts). Basically it’s cap room they need to function during the year. It’s not money to go out and spend everywhere.”

Clowney started his offseason hoping for $20M per year. He reportedly dropped his “asking price” to more than $17M. It was nice for the Patriots that Newton decided to sign the ultimate “prove-it” contract with the team for a base salary of $1.05M but that’s almost certainly not going to happen with Clowney.

First, he’s not coming off a three-year stretch of injuries as Newton is. Second, the outcry about how Newton got taken advantage of isn’t going to make the next big-name player likely to take pennies on the dollar to play for New England.

Besides all that, Clowney was all set with playing for Bill O’Brien and reportedly nixed a trade to the Dolphins because he didn’t want to play for Brian Flores, who also came up with the Patriots. Signing on to play for Belichick himself for a team-friendly contract?

Stranger things have happened but it will take all of Bill’s persuasiveness to pull off a Clowney signing.

And if that were to occur, the team would almost certainly have to get Joe Thuney to agree to a long-term deal, since he’s currently on the franchise tag and counting $14.78M against the cap.

The Patriots have until Wednesday to get a new deal done with Thuney or he’s locked in for the $14.78M for 2020. The team said in March it wanted to get a deal done but it hasn’t yet come to fruition which is the case with a lot of new deals. The problem? The pandemic.

Uncertainty over how great the revenue shortfall will be in 2020 because of missed games, fan-free stadiums, etc., has made teams reticent to write deals not knowing what the salary cap is going to look like.

Players like Thuney, meanwhile, are now facing the prospect of a cap that’s going to probably flatten and possibly drop over the next few seasons. And that may happen regardless of whether the new TV and gambling deals come in.

So it is a little bit of a buyer’s market for the Patriots when it comes to Thuney. If he wanted to avoid the uncertainty of the open market in 2021 and beyond, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do something now. He’d be selling his services low but he’d have certainty. But he’d also be missing out on the chance that a vaccine materializes in two months, all returns to normal, TV and gambling deals come in and the league is flush.

Right now — as we’ve all come to realize — there are no sure things. But if you want to make a bet? Bet on the Patriots being boring with this dough.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Patriots Talk Podcast: Training camp position battles to watch

Finally, the New England Patriots are back on the field at Gillette Stadium.

The new-look Pats had their first practice of 2020 on Wednesday, which means training camp position battles are officially underway. The obvious position battle in camp will be at the quarterback position between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham, but there are many more intriguing battles to keep an eye on.

In a brand new Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry break down the positions where these battles will take place.

Patriots Talk Podcast - Training Camp Preview: Burning Questions. Bold Predictions | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

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Perry named the Patriots' three most notable position battles, starting with the QB position. While it's technically a battle between Newton and Stidham, some believe it's a foregone conclusion Newton will be the Week 1 starter.

"You have the quarterback spot with Cam vs. Stidham. Let's move past that, we've talked enough about that, we both think Cam is going to win the job. Not a real battle, per se," Perry said.

"Let's go back to the outside linebackers. This is a four-way cage match between Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Shilique Calhoun, and Brandon Copeland. My guy is going to be Anfernee Jennings, but I do think that's a battle. Whatever that opposite John Simon edge spot is called, somebody's got to fill it.

"Number three, let's talk special teams ... who is your returner? Is it Kyle Dugger, your first draft pick in this year's draft? Is it J.J. Taylor? Fun as hell to watch, would be fun as hell to watch in the kicking game. Or is it last year's guy, Gunner [Olszewski]? They don't want to give it to Julian Edelman, we know that, so one of those three guys I think will win it."

For Curran, it's a newly-added safety who will have his attention in camp.

"I'm going to head over to the secondary for the position battle that I'm interested to watch," Curran said. "I have a good feeling of who's going to shine there and it's my defensive dark horse for this camp and this season -- it's going to be Adrian Phillips at the safety spot holding off a young Kyle Dugger.

"I think Adrian Phillips is going to be an absolute eye-opener at the safety position ... Adrian Phillips is a talented player, he's closer to [Patrick] Chung than he is Devin McCourty. He's going to be a really good player for the Patriots this year. But I'm going to be real interested to see how Dugger competes ... he's an athletic unicorn."

Curran and Perry also discuss the burning questions surrounding the Patriots, why the Pats should explore using the triple option, bold predictions for the 2020 season, and much more.

Check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or on YouTube.

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

Patriots' 2020 draft pick Dustin Woodard retires before rookie season

One of the New England Patriots' 2020 draft picks has decided to retire before his rookie season began.

The team announced Thursday it has placed offensive lineman Dustin Woodard on the reserve/retired list.

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Woodard, who played college football at the University of Memphis, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (230th overall) of April's draft. The 22-year-old center/guard was one of three offensive linemen taken by the Patriots in the 2020 draft, along with guard Michael Onwenu (sixth round) and tackle Justin Herron (sixth round).

Why is Woodard retiring? ESPN's Mike Reiss reported additional details:

The Patriots signed center Tyler Gauthier on Wednesday in a move that adds some depth to the position following Woodard's retirement. Woodard had a chance to make the roster as the backup center behind starter David Andrews.