by Hal Bent, BostonSportPage.com
The New England Patriots have a a few key free agents this offseason (check out my awesome article over at Musketfire.com--yes, that was a shameless plug for which I feel no shame whatsoever), and are currently about $18 million under the salary cap (all Patriots cap numbers from NYJetscap.com--yes, I know the URL seems odd, but these guys are great and are on top of the entire AFC East). This is important as the Patriots need to reload this offseason to get back to winning Super Bowls. Cap space is in the news with the talk of the New York Jets possibly destroying any chance of being competitive and trading super-human cornerback Darrelle Revis. As a Patriots fan, I can only hope the Jets are short-sighted and ignorant enough to pull the trigger. If Revis is available, Bill Belichick should be telling the Jets to take all the draft picks they want in return for him.
Of course, this being the NFL, the cap numbers are hardly “real” at any time. For example, if a team needs cap space, they can simply convert a player’s base salary into a “guaranteed bonus” and free up money on that season’s salary cap by . Once that is done, the amount is pushed out along the length of the contract (teams often extend the contract with non-guaranteed years that the player will never play to lessen the amount each year). Yes, that can leave teams with dead money on the cap at the end of the player’s time on the roster, but that is something teams have to face.
The Patriots are very disciplined in their front office and don’t overly rely on free agents and create huge amounts of dead money like the free-spending Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and Oakland Raiders. That said, the Patriots have a very small window of opportunity with quarterback Tom Brady at the top of his game. The Patriots need to be aggressive right now after stretching their run of “disappointing losses to end the season” to eight (2005 Divisional Round loss to the Denver Broncos; 2006 AFC Championship game loss to the Colts when they blew a 21-6 halftime lead; 2007 Super Bowl loss to the Giants; 2008 simply not making playoffs with Matt Cassel after winning the last four games of the season counts in my mind; 2009 Wild Card round blown out at home by the Baltimore Ravens; 2010 Divisional Round loss to the freaking New York Jets; 2011 Super Bowl loss to the Giants, and now 2012 AFC Championship game loss to the Baltimore Ravens).
So the Patriots have $18 million, need to sign offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Aqib Talib, and probably wide receiver Wes Welker, as well as adding to their team on defense and offense. If the Patriots need more cap space there is plenty available. Check out these base salaries that can be converted to bonuses and free up cash for right now: quarterback Tom Brady, base salary: $9.75 million; defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, base salary: 6.5 million; offensive tackle Logan Mankins, base salary 5.75 million. That is an additional $20 million in cap space just from these three players. For the players, there is no downside to converting salary to bonus because that only guarantees the money, so for the player it’s a no-brainer to take the guaranteed money and help the team acquire more help.
So throw away any salary cap concerns, the Patriots are looking at having all the money they could possibly spend available. Salary cap space is NOT an issue this offseason. Every free agent/trade should be on the table and weighed only as “can this player help the team win the Super Bowl in the 2013 season?”
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