By: Miguel Benzan
A couple of my Twitter followers asked for a New England Patiots 2017 salary cap preview. Please note that I have used Brian McFarland’s preview of the Ravens 2015 salary cap a template for this blog post. I decided to break up this preview so as to limit the length. Would like to prevent ice cream headaches during the middle of winter:)
These numbers were last updated on January 4, 2017.
Quick summary – The Patriots are going to have to make several difficult decisions in the next year about which young players to retain. I will presume that the 2017 salary cap will be $170 million. Given that we are about 2 months away from the start of the 2017 League Year (4PM, March 9) this preview is probably a bit premature so I plan to update this in February after the Super Bowl.
PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT
The Patriots presently have the following 40 players under contract for 2017 (with Cap Numbers indicated):
QBs (3): Tom Brady ($14M); Jimmy Garoppolo ($1,108,513); Jacoby Brissett ($775,189)
RBs (3): Dion Lewis ($1.4875M); James White ($789,272); DJ Foster ($540K)
WRs (4): Danny Amendola ($7,791,868); Julian Edelman ($5,750,000); Chris Hogan ($2,968,750); Malcolm Mitchell ($684,498)
TE (1): Rob Gronkowski ($6.75M)
C (2): David Andrews ($620,000); Ted Karras ($565,089)
G (3): Joe Thuney ($768,357); Tre’ Jackson ($745,935); Shaq Mason ($725,881)
OT (4): Nate Solder ($11,166,418); Marcus Cannon ($3,368,750); Sebastian Vollmer ($2,250,000); LaAdrian Waddle ($1.15M)
DE (2): Trey Flowers ($754,733); Geneo Grissom ($615,000)
DT (2): Malcom Brown ($2,076,336); Vincent Valentine ($716,355)
LBs (5): Shea McClellin ($3,283,333); Rob Ninkovich ($2.35M); Jonathan Freeney ($1,735,833); Kyle Van Noy ($1,115,741); Elandon Roberts ($565,089)
CBs (3): Cyrus Jones ($910,614); Eric Rower ($878,624); Jonathan Jones ($543,333);
S (3): Devin McCourty ($10.935M); Patrick Chung ($4.5M); Jordan Richards($1,012,241)
ST (5): Stephen Gostkowski ($4.5M) Matthew Slater ($1,612,500); Ryan Allen ($1.9M); Nate Ebner ($1.2M); Joe Cardona ($685K)
The above 40 players are under contract for a total Salary Cap commitment (which includes dead money from players no longer on the team) of $107,305,742.
Initial projections have estimated that the 2017 Salary Cap would see an increase of between $13M and $15M, moving the Cap up to between $166M and $170M.
So, using the figure of $170M for the estimated Cap, the Patriots will initially have around $62.7M in Cap space.
This will be the basis for early reports on the status of the Patriots’ Salary Cap, but it’s important to keep in mind that this number is based only on the 40 players that are presently under contract and nowhere near representative of the team’s Cap with a full roster.
So, between now and March 9th at 4:00 p.m., when the new league year begins and free agency begins, the Patriots will have a lot of work to do.
PRACTICE SQUAD FREE AGENTS (Futures Contracts)
In past years, the Patriots have usually re-signed all of their Practice Squad players to contracts for the coming year. The announcement of those signed should come right after the Super Bowl.
The 10 players currently on the Practice Squad are:
DT – Darius Kilgo
DT – Woodrow Hamilton
LB – Trevor Bates
G – Jamil Douglas
G – Chris Barker
G – Chase Farris
RB – Tyler Gaffney
FB – Glenn Gronkowski
WR – Devin Lucien
WR – DeAndrew White
Glenn Gronkowski, Devin Lucien, Chase Farris, and Trevor Bates will be signed to an one-year contracts of $465K. Based on already having a credited season in the NFL, Chris Barker, Woodrow Hamilton, Tyler Gaffney, DeAndrew White, and Jamil Douglas would receive one-year contracts of $540K. With two credited seasons, Darius Kilgo will receive an one-year contracts of $615K. The Patriots total cap commitment after signing their practice squad is $112,480,742.
2016 SALARY CAP CARRYOVER
Under the terms of the CBA, teams are now allowed to carry over excess Salary Cap space from one year to the next. As of 1/4 I am projecting that the Patriots will end the 2016 season with about $5.4 million in cap space. Add $5.4m to our League Cap Projection of $170m and we now have the Patriots adjusted cap as $175.4 million. Subtract Pats commitment of $112,480,742 from $175.4 million and we get about $62.9 million in cap space with 62 players on the Patriots 2016 roster.
INCENTIVE ADJUSTMENTS:The Patriots’ 2016 Cap will also see adjustments for incentives earned that didn’t count against the 2016 Cap (“Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives) that were actually earned and incentives that did count against the 2016 Cap (“Likely To Be Earned” incentives) but weren’t earned.
The total of these incentive adjustments are usually not disclosed until near the beginning of the 2017 league year in March. I currently project that the Patriots will get a debit of $647,500. See my blog post that tracks the Patriots incentives to see the underlying details behind this projection. Subtract $647,500 from the prior Patriots adjusted cap number of $175.4 million and we now have our final projection of the Patriots 2016 adjusted cap number as $174,652,500. Subtract $112,480,472 from $174,652,500 and we get about $62.3 million in cap space.
2011/2012 CAP ADJUSTMENT REPAYMENT: When the new CBA was agreed upon in 2011, the Salary Cap saw a reduction and, for the first few years, stagnation. Foreseeing this, the terms of the CBA allowed for teams to borrow ($3M in 2011; $1.5M in 2012) against future Caps, but forced teams to repay that amount during the 2014 through 2017 league years. The CBA left it up to the team to decide when to repay those amounts. I have been unable to determine if the Patriots borrow any cap space in 2011 or in 2012. But if they did, they will have to pay it back by the start of the 2017 League Year.
AARON HERNANDEZ: While I expect the Patriots to receive a $3.25M credit for Aaron Hernandez, I am now unsure if the credit will come before the 2017 League Year begins. I detailed why in this linked blog post.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (ERFAs)
These players must be tendered contracts of the league minimum, based on the player’s length of service in the league ($615K, $540K or $465K). Once tendered, these players are fully under the team’s control and are not free to negotiate with other teams.
The Patriots have 3 players who will become Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs) after the 2016 season
TE – Matt Lengel ($540K)
CB – Justin Coleman ($615K)
S – Brandon King ($615K)
In the past, the Patriots have usually tendered all of their ERFAs who played some during the regular season. The Patriots have sometimes not tendered a player who spent the entire prior season on IR (Greg Orton – 2014 season). I go in more detail about the ERFAs in this blog piece.. Tendering their 3 ERFAs will increase the Patriots total commitment by $840,000 as Brandon King and Justin Coleman displaces players with a $465K salary from the Top 51 list while Matt Lengel’s 540K salary is now part of the Top 51 list. Our new total cap commitment number is $113,320,742. Subtract that from our $174,652,500 projection for the 2016 Patriots adjusted cap number and we get about $61.5 million in cap space.
PROJECTED ADJUSTED TEAM CAP AND RULE OF 51 SALARY CAP COMMITMENT
Based on all of the above, I am projecting that the Patriots will have an adjusted Team Salary Cap of $175.4M. The team’s adjusted Cap consists of the projected league-wide Salary Cap of $170M, plus the carryover of the 2016 excess Cap space of $5.4M (estimated), and incentive/Cap repayment adjustments (a debit amount of around $647,500).
So, for the purposes of this projection – and presenting the worst place scenario as the starting point – if the team signs and tenders all of their practice squad players and ERFAs and prior to the team making any other roster moves (releases or retirements) or the restructure of any contracts, the team will have 53 players under contract.
During the offseason, though, when rosters can balloon to up to 90 players, only the highest 51 Salary Cap numbers (and all 2016 signing bonus prorations and all dead money from released players) are counted for Salary Cap purposes.
As such, the Patriots’ estimated Rule of 51 number – again, if they sign all 10 practice squad players and tender all 3 ERFAs would be a Cap commitment of just over $113.3M
2017 Cap – 170M
2016 Carryover – 5.4m
2016 Adjustments (-$647,500)
2016 Pats adjusted cap – $174,652,500
2017 Cap Commitment (53 players) – $113,320,742
2017 Patriots Cap Space = $61,331,758
In my next part I will look at how the Patriots will most likely use this cap space. Please note that this is the highest amount of cap space during the Robert Kraft/Bill Belichick era.
You can follow me on Twitter at @patscap
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