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Playing a GM – Patriots Offseason Moves 2021 by Paul Kovacs – Part One

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
3 years ago at 9:24 am ET

Playing a GM – Patriots Offseason Moves 2021 by Paul Kovacs – Part OneGreg M. Cooper - USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes you come across an article that is so well researched that you just have to pass it along.  This is one of those.  I did not write this but with the permission of the author, Coach Paul Kovacs, I am able to present this here for all Patriots Fans to enjoy.  These are not my opinions as I disagree with some of his ideas.

A little about the author.  Coach Paul is of Hungarian descent.  At the start of the 2000s Hungarian Sport Television introduced American football to Hungarian viewers. One of Coach Kovacs´ first games on TV was a Patriots game, where he immediately fell in love with the Patriots’ defense and the play of Rodney Harrison. Since that time, he is a football fan.

After few years of watching the game, Coach Kovacs started to play for the Budapest Wolves, where he trained and played 4 seasons (2006 – 2009) in the Hungarian Div1 and Div2. During his time as a player, he started to coach the only Hungarian ladies team (Budapest Wolves Ladies) as a defensive backs coach.

After a break (where he moved to Germany, Berlin), Coach Paul started to play again in Berlin, for the Berlin Bullets (2013-2014). During the training camp of his second season, he injured his knee and retired. Within a few weeks, he decided to come back and join the team again, now as the defensive backs coach (2014). One year later he took over the head football coaching role and finished the season with 4 wins and 4 losses.

In 2016 Coach Kovacs went to the Berlin Adler (GFL, German Div1) and was assistant DB coach for a few months. After another change, he led the defense of the Erkner Razorbacks in 2017-2018 and he took the DB and LB coaching duties too. In 2017 his defense was the 2nd best in the division.

In 2019 Coach Kovacs took a one-year baby break and started to work again in 2020 at the Berlin Knights (German Div3) as LB coach and asst-DC. Later in that year, he was promoted to the DC role.  Nowadays Coach Kovacs is the DB coach of the Berlin Kobras.

Here’s a look at Part One of his column:

So you want to be a GM

First time in the last decade the Patriots didn`t get into the playoffs. Ok, it is what it is. We didn’t have Brady, we had league-high opt-outs before the season, we lost some key players in FA and we had some additional injuries.

The team has problems on both sides of the line of scrimmage, which wouldn’t be easy to solve in one offseason, but I try at least to fill the gaps and start some kind of rebuilding. I am sure with Belichick as HC/GM the team can manage to be in the playoff again within a year or 2 (maybe I am too optimistic, but I don’t think we are so deep as it sometimes looks). We still have some key players, some of the opt-outs will come back, we have the 15th pick on the draft, and have almost $69M cap space.

In this post, I try to put myself into the position of a GM‘s (let’s say now I will play Belichick the GM). Right, we all know that nobody can project what BB will do, but since I have nothing to lose, I can show you my thoughts. For the financial parts, I used numbers from @patscap,, and Ok, let’s start!


Everything starts with the cap situation. We still don’t know what will be the exact cap number for the 2021 season, the only sure thing is, that it can’t be lower than $175M. Since @patscap uses this number as basic, I planned to do the same, but the latest news suggests that the final cap number could be a little bit higher, around $180M. Because I want to be optimistic and I hope owners will accept that extra $5M, I will calculate with this amount.

Every team has some numbers which can increase or decrease their cap space (cap space is the net amount of money that they can use to sign old or new players). Most of the time teams have carryovers from the previous season which we have to add to the cap number. In our case, this number is an additional $19,57M. The next category we have to check is the stand of the LTBE/NLTBE incentives in the contracts. LTBE = Likely to be earned, NLTBE = Not likely to be earned. All LTBE incentives count for the actual year (means in our case, those were counted for 2020), but if a player misses some time (or even goes to IR) it can happen, that those LTBE levels won’t be reached. After those not reached LTBE incentives the team will get a credit in the next year (in our case credit will come for 2021). Every NLTBE incentives will be counted for the next season if they are reached during the actual season.

Let’s show you a simple example. Julian Edelman had $500k incentives after every 10 catches counts from catch 60th. If we say the incentives after the 60th, 70th, and 80th catches were LTBE incentives, then it means $1,5M were counted against the 2020 cap. Yes, unfortunately, Edelman got injured and had only 21 catches during the 2020 season. So we have 3 levels of LTBE incentives that were not reached. This means the Patriots will get back $1,5M in the 2021 season. So we have to check the stand of those LTBE/NLTBE incentives because they could give the team extra cap space or they can lower it if some NLTBE were reached. In our case (based on @patscap´s numbers) the Patriots will get $5,51M back.

The next category is the PPE (Proven Performance Escalator), which is for players who enter into their 4th season. There are three levels of qualifications (Article 7, Section 4 of the 2020 CBA governs the PPS), which I won’t explain long in this post, but I might write about it in the future. Short: it depends on the played snaps (percentage) during the season. What is important for us, that we have nobody in 2021 who will be eligible for extra money from the PPE (last year we had Deatrich Wise).

There is usually some amount of dead money too. These dead money amounts are cap commitments after players who are not anymore with the team. Based on the data from, Patriots will have $863.689 in dead money. The last part of the basic numbers is the amount of salaries (this number contains the salaries of the 8 opt-out players as well). This number is – based again on @patscap´s estimations – $135.377.000. Ok, Miguel´s actual number is higher, but only because he counted a 1st round RFA tender ($4.873.000) for JC Jackson and an ERFA tender ($850.000) for Jacob Johnson, which I will bring in later. That’s all. Very easy, isn’t it? Ok, I am just joking. Let’s see the numbers in spreadsheets:

Ok, so this will be our starting point before we make any trade/cut/restructure/etc. We have a bit more than $68M, which is a very good amount compared to last year, when the team had at this point $37M less. Yes, Patriots had $31,8M in the same period of last year.

Let’s see a spreadsheet about the dead money:

Last year we had $7,7M dead money without Tom Brady´s $13,5M, which is another huge difference. Yes, the team got back money from the AB and Hernandez grievances, but even with that money they had a far worse cap situation than they have now.

Estimated cap space 2021   $ 68.839.311,00

That is great, I am happy because theoretically, the team has a lot to spend. At the moment – based on the numbers from – the Patriots has the 4th highest cap space after Jacksonville ($74,6M), Indianapolis ($73,7M), and Jets ($70,5M). But, we have to see every direction where this money should go. This $68M is not only for the rookies or the new signings, but we have a lot of free agents as well. Some are more important, some are not so important, but a chunk of the money will and have to go to resign a few of our own free agents.

Not a short list I have to admit, but this is how business is working. At the end of the list, we have J.C. Jackson who will be a restricted free agent (RFA), which means the team can put a tender on him. It can be a first- or a second- or an original round tender. If another team wants the player they will offer him a contract, the Patriots have the opportunity to match that offer and retain the player for the same (or higher) money that the other team offered him. Or the team won´t match the offer and they will get a first or second-round pick from the other team (in Jackson´s case there is no original round pick since he was an UDFA). If no other team makes an offer for the player, the Patriots have to pay for an exact amount of money (see below). In Jacob Johnson´s situation, he is ERFA (exclusive restricted free agent). The team can offer him a new contract which has to reach the veteran minimum salary, which is $850.000 for Johnson because of the two years in the NFL.

As we can see the free agency could hit our Oline and Dline quite hard. Andrews and Thuney are cornerstone pieces in our Oline. Butler and Guy were the heart of the Dline. Additionally Wise could leave town as well, who was this year a valuable rotational player and in Simon and Calhoun the team could lose two of their rotational edge players too. Justin Bethel is an interesting name to watch, because our (I hope) future HOF special team captain, Slater made no decision if he will come back for one more year. He has actually one year left from his contract, but he won´t be younger and his body could already show problems after 13 seasons. So in a bad situation, we could lose not just one but two Pro Bowler ST players.

We will come back to these names soon. Let’s roll. If a team wants to increase its cap space, it can cut or trade players. You cut/trade someone who won´t fit in your system anymore or because he is too expensive. There are other possibilities to lower the cap hit since the team can extend or restructure a contract. Of course only if the player is ok with it. Take a look at the most expensive players in 2021:

Well, as we can see the 10 most expensive players would take more than 60% of the actual salary commitments. For some players, I would pay the money without any hesitation, but there are few players where we should try to come to an agreement to lower those numbers. Cannon and Hightower might retire, so there would be no need to talk, the team could save there quite an amount of money. The other big question is what Edelman is planning. There were speculations about Edelman might follow Brady to the Bucs, but he posted some promising words on IG a few days earlier, in which he mentioned, he is ready for the next year. If there is one player in our offense whose salary is untouchable, then it is Julian Edelman´s (ok, and Slater´s). McCourty wants to play one more year and at the moment I don´t see another player in the back end who can lead them on such a high level than Devin does. Gilmore is still one of the top10 corners in the League, but I would try to lower his numbers.

If you cut or trade a player there would stay some amount of dead money, but usually, you will have net saving at the end. In our next spreadsheet, we will go through the list of the biggest net savings. I will decrease the net savings by $780.000 each because I am presuming a player to takes their place on the top51 list.

Players with stars after their names are – based on´s database – players outside of the top51 list, so those numbers should not be lowered with $780.000. According – again –, Patriots has at the moment 62 players under contract for 2021.

We have one more thing to do before we start our wannabe GM activity. Patriots have some draft picks, which will need a rookie pool. Every draft pick has an own cap number, so this is easy to calculate. After this step we will be able to determine our cap space and we will be set to launch our journey.

So ladies and gentlemen congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the first of three posts. Thank you that you are still with me here. In part two we will look at our cap space after we decreased it with the rookie pool.  Then address Our own free agents and some Free Agents I believe would be great fits for the Patriots.

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Offseason
Tags: J.C. Jackson Julian Edelman New England Patriots Paul Kovacs Stephon Gilmore

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