Pats, B's, Sox
You're correct that the cap situation is entirely fluid at this point. The good news on the cap is the relative lack of dead money in 2022. Last year, they ended the season with $28M in dead cap money. The Patriots can offer some restructures to veterans with a cap hit, and if they don't agree, the Patriots will release them. I suspect those conversations are underway.
My guess on re-signings are Nick Folk, James White if healthy, Ted Karras and Bentley. They'll tender Jakob Johnson and Jakobi Meyers.
Gunner Olszewski is interesting. I think there are better options out there in the mold of Welker or Amendola who can play in the slot and return kicks. Olszewski did not develop as a slot receiver. Mac Jones' development against the blitz can accelerate with a go-to slot receiver who he trusts to be there.
I hate to make any reference to Tom Brady when commenting on Mac, but Brady's development as a passer was entirely possible because of the work that Troy Brown, Welker, Edelman and Amendola did in the slot. The Patriots don't have that guy. I have wondered all year how the offense might have looked had James White had been healthy.
The Pats situation (13.5M) right now makes it extremely limited on what they can do. They MUST redo some of the contracts, converting Salary to SB just to have enough money to put tenders on Jackson and Meyers. I love Jakob Johnson, they'll put a low tender on him if they don't flat out re-sign him prior to the start of Free Agency.
Tom had Troy Brown, David Patten, David Givens and Deion Branch by his 2nd season. Branch was the goto guy more than Brown by the 3rd season and Branch played on the outside and in the slot. Just like Welker, Edelman and Amendola.
We don't know what Olszewski can do yet. The few plays he had, he got open and made the catch. With the likes of Bourne, Meyers, and Agholor in front of him this year, He wasn't going to get a chance regardless of how well he did in practice because of those 3. It took Edelman 5 years before he earned a full-time starting position. People will point to the year that Welker went down and what Edelman did, but that scenario hasn't happened for Olszewski.
You said you think there are better options out there that can return Punts and be the Slot receiver. That may be, but we've already established that the Pats don't have a lot of wiggle room this year in regards to salary. So, who are the prospects from the draft that would fit this bill? A primary slot receiver who can move outside when needed ala Edelman, Branch, Welker, etc?