So much for the mantra that the Patriots don't pay their top players well. After years of avoiding the label of a top-heavy team, the New England Patriots have become a top-heavy team. Tom Curran of CSNNE writes:
Brady's $21.8 million hit is bigger than the combined hits of Wilfork ($10.6 million) and Mankins ($10 million). With two years remaining on his deal, Brady is now into the heavy part of the contract he signed in September of 2010, according to the salary documents compiled at the end of the regular season.
As Curran writes, these three hits combine for 35% of the team's salary cap in 2013. While the Patriots are far from strapped for salary cap space, they can't possibly be thrilled with so much money tied up in just three players. Of course, part of this is their own fault. They restructured Tom Brady's contract prior to the 2012 season, and that pushed the figure up to the $22 million it will be for 2013 and 2014.
At this point, asking Brady to restructure again is probably out of the question - unless it's part of a contract extension to keep Brady on the books past 2014. As for that scenario, I don't see that happening quite yet, as I believe the team will want to see what a 36 and 37 year old Tom Brady will look like before committing to a 38 and 39 year old Tom Brady.
With Logan Mankins signing a contract extension just in 2011, he wouldn't seemingly be a candidate to restructure. However, considering his recent run of injuries and the fact that he's on the wrong side of 30, you might wonder if the Patriots think he's worth that $10 million a year number.
As for Vince Wilfork, he's certainly worth the $10.6 million hit. And while he has only two years remaining on his deal, I don't see the Patriots extending him quite yet, as it's hard to know what you would be getting from a 33 or 34 year old Wilfork.
Curran also points out that it's not just those three are not the only reasons this year's roster is top-heavy:
The top nine cap hits in 2013 are projected to gobble up $65.95 million of the 2013 cap.
Those are: Brady ($21.8 million), Wilfork ($10.6 million), Mankins ($10 million), Jerod Mayo ($5.6 million), Brandon Lloyd ($4.5 million), Aaron Hernandez ($4 million), Stephen Gostkowski ($3.4 million) and Dan Connolly ($3.3 million).
Of those listed above, Mayo, Hernandez, and Connolly also signed new deals and are seemingly each a bargain considering their production. We discussed the possibility of the team not picking up Lloyd's $3 million option earlier today. But the real interesting name in the top nine is Stephen Gostkowski. His $3.4 million is a tough number to swallow for a kicker.
While the team knows better the most the importance of a reliable kicker, it seems that lately, at times, the Patriots haven't trusted Gostkowski in big situations. While I do believe Gostkowski is a top ten kicker, perhaps the team will look at less expensive alternatives.
When all is said and done, the Patriots are still in very good shape when it comes to the 2013 salary cap with an approximate $18.6 million to spend. However, with contracts to players such as Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, and Sebastian Vollmer expiring, the amount of wiggle room the team actually has could be somewhat limited. With the team so top-heavy, expect the team to work to restructure multiple contracts over the next few weeks leading up to the new league year.