Please note that I am using one of Adamjt13's post as a template for this article. I like to thank Mrs.B for putting the fire under me to do this. With 54 players under contract for 2006, the Patriots currently have $95.4 million committed to the 2006 salary cap. But that is before the advent of a number of factors that will increase or decrease New Englandâ€™s cap number, such as future years of rookiesâ€™ contracts voiding, credits from the 2005 cap, cuts or renegotiations for several veteran players and tenders given to exclusive-rights free agents, restricted free agents and possibly a franchise free agent. This breakdown is an attempt to spell out exactly where the Patriots stand in regard to the 2006 cap and the cap effects of the various personnel moves the team could make. The numbers themselves are my estimates. I wish that I could say that a league source confirmed them but I can't. TEAM SALARY CAP BREAKDOWN As I mentioned, the Patriotsâ€™ current cap number for 2004 is $95,400,000. The following factors will change that: Voided years â€” I am projecting that no Patriot had voided years in their contracts. By rule, the prorated signing bonuses from the voided years would have accelerated into 2005, and, after using the remaining 2005 cap space, would have carried over into 2006. Street Free Agents - I do not expect the Patriots to sign any more street free agents at the rookie minimum of $235,000 but if they do, the cap cost would be zero due to the Rule of 51 (see below). Exclusive-rights free agents â€” The Patriots have 5 ERFAs, and I am projecting that they will give tenders to all of them. The following 3 ERFAs would get third-year tenders of $391,720: Randall Gay, Gene Mruczkowski, and Billy Yates. Brandon "Bam" Childress and Guss Scott would get the first-year tenders of $241,720. The gross cap hit of the Patriotsâ€™ 5 ERFA tenders would be $1,658,600 but the net cap cost (483,600) would be lower due to the Rule of 51 (see below). Restricted free agents â€” The Patriots do not have any RFAs Franchise Free Agent â€” I am projecting that the Patriots will not use either a franchise tag or the transition tag this offseason, despite reports that Adam Vinatieri could be franchised. If he is, his tender will be $3,011,000. Rule of 51 â€” In the offseason, the only base salaries or tenders that count against the team salary cap are those of the players with the 51 highest cap numbers on the team. Since New England already has 54 players signed for the 2006 season, my projected 5 tenders would bring the Patriotsâ€™ total to 59 players counting against the cap. Therefore, the base salaries or tenders of the players with the 8 lowest cap numbers will not count against the cap. Using my projection for tenders, the salary of the player with the 51st-highest cap number ($241,720) would be $235,000. The salary of the player with the 52nd-highest would also be $235,000. So, the base salaries or tender amounts of 5 more players with cap numbers of $241,720 or less would not count against the cap. The total of those amounts is $1,200,000. Minimum salary increase â€” Any player whose base salary specified in his contract is lower than the minimum salary for a player of his experience level is automatically given a raise to the minimum salary. For 2006, this situation does NOT apply to a Patriots player. LTBE/NTLBE Adjustment - Last year the Patriots had a negative cap adjustment of 2,902,125. I am projecting that this year that the Pats will have a negative cap adjustment of $500,000. Salary Increases because of Escalator Clauses - Several Patriots (Branch, Koppen, Graham, Samuel, Klecko, TBC) will be in the last year of their rookie deals. It is likely that some of them reached escalator clauses that would either increase their 2006 salary or give them a roster bonus. I am projecting that the cap numbers for these 6 players will be increased by $1,000,000 because they reached the levels needed to trigger the escalator clauses. Here, then, is the breakdown of the Patriotsâ€™ team cap, with my projected effects of the factors that will change the total: Current cap number: $95,400,000 (includes $418,584 in dead money) Added effect of voided years: $0 Added ERFA tenders: $1,700,000 Added RFA tenders: $0 Added franchise/transition tenders:$0 Added effect of minimum salary increase: $0 Added effect of Rule of 51: (minus-$1,200,000) LTBE/NTLBE adjustment: (minus - $500,000) Escaltor clause effect: 1,000,000 Projected cap number before cuts/renegotiations: $96,400,000 The salary cap for 2006 has been projected to between $92 and $95 million. I split the difference and will be using $93,500,000 as the cap number. As you can see, based on my projections above, the Patriots would be over the cap by $2.9 million if they do not cut any veterans or renegotiate any contracts. But there are plenty of opportunities to do both, thereby opening up millions of dollars under the cap. Here are some possible ways that the Pats could free up cap space. Please note that I am NOT advocating that the Patriots do all of these salary-manuevers. Please note that I am presuming the CBA will be extended before March 3rd. 1.) Release Duane Starks - net cap savings of $3.4 million. 2.) Release Tyrone Poole - net cap savings of $1.8 million 3a.)Reduce McGinest's salary from $3.5 million to $1.5 million while converting his $3.5 million roster bonus into a NTLBE incentive - cap savings of $5.5 million 3b) Release McGinest - net cap savings of $6.8 million 4a.) Convert $3 million of Brady's $4 million salary into a signing bonus while extending his deal out to the 2012 season - cap savings of $3.87 million while pushing out $4.28 million of signing bonus proration to the 2011 and 2012 seasons. 4b.) Convert $3 million of Brady's $4 million salary into a signing bonus - cap savings of $2.4 million while adding $600,000 to his cap numbers for the 2007,2008,2009, and 2010 seasons. 5a.) Extend Brandon Gorin's contract by 2 years and convert his $700,000 LTBE incentive into a signing bonus - cap savings - $525,000 5b.) Convert Gorin's LTBE incentive into a NTLBE incentive - cap savings of $700,000 6a.) Extend Ross Hochstein's contract by 3 years and convert his $500,000 LTBE incentive into a signing bonus - cap savings - $375,000 6b.) Convert Hochstein's LTBE incentive into a NTLBE incentive - cap savings of $500,000 7.) Convert Matt Light's $2.6 million into a NTLBE incentive - cap savings of $2.6 million 8.) Convert $2.7 million of Colvin's $3.65 million salary into a signing bonus while extending his deal out to the 2012 season - cap savings of $2.025 million while pushing out $1,012,500 million of signing bonus proration to the 2009 and 2010 seasons. 9.) Convert Jarvis Green's $2.5 million roster bonus into a signing bonus - cap savings of $1,875,000 10.)Extend Richard Seymour's contract by 6 years lowering his cap number from $7.4 million to $6.4 million - cap savings of $1 million. As you can see from above, the Pats could free up more than $22 million in cap room if they chose to do so. The Pats could free up more than $17 million in cap room WITHOUT releasing a single player. The Patriots could free up more than $9 million without releasing a player and without pushing out signing bonus money. When determining the cap savings from releasing players, keep in mind the Rule of 51. When a player from the top 51 is released or traded, the base salary of the player with the 52nd-highest cap number is added to the cap. For example, if Starks was released, his cap number would be lowered by $3,606,720, although the actual team savings would be only $3,371,7200 because another playerâ€™s $235,000 base salary or tender would be added to the team cap. Using my projections, the first six players released or traded would result in a $235,000 salary being added. The Rule of 51 also applies when free agents are signed. If the free agentâ€™s cap number is among the 51-highest on the team, the base salary of the player whose cap number had been 51st-highest no longer counts against the cap. In most cases, then, the effect of signing a free agent will be $235,000 less than his cap number for 2006. To determine about how much can be spent on free agents, add $235,000 to the teamâ€™s cap room per free agent signed. So, if the Patriots enter the free-agency period $8,000,000 under the cap, they could sign one free agent for a 2006 cap number of $8,235,000, or two free agents for a combined cap number $8,470,000, or three for $8,705,000, or four for $8,940,000, and so on. I expect the Pats to sign one big-name free agent (most likely Adam) who will have a 2006 cap number around $2 million, two free agents (one of them to be - Steven Neal) who will have a 2006 cap number of $1.2 million, 3 free agents (most likely Andre Davis, Antrell Hawkins, and Michael Stone), who will have a cap number of $800,000 and 10 other free agents (Christin Fauria, Matt Chatham, Don Davis, Chad Scott, Ross Tucker) who will sign deals qualifying for the veteran minimum exception thereby having a cap number of $485,000. I suspect that the Patriots will sign 16 to 20 free agents who will have a 2006 gross cap hit of about $12 million but because of the rule of 51 will take up about $9.5 million. See http://www.patscap.com/2006faoverview.htm for what I expect the time to look like before the draft picks are signed.