According to overthecap, we have about 6.5 million to spend this year. I'm sure everyone here knows that when you have that low amount to spend, you are going back to the bargain basket to sign other guys and depth. Thankfully, we only have 6 guys who are free agents this year: Talib, Edelman, Hooman, Wendel, Blount, and Spikes.
Hooman and Wendel can be had for cheap. The others though may be getting big contracts. There are two ways we can go about this: 1) Rely heavily on the draft, or 2) cut and restructure some players. I would like to explore the latter.
Richard Hill wrote a piece about our cap situation, and who we can cut/restructure to increase our cap spending. Since Hill is beyond a writer than I am, and because all the information is there, I'll just re-post what he wrote here (Thought it might be ideal to re-post what he said anyways since the offseason has officially begun):
Per Miguel, there are 22 players who could save the team cap space if they are released, totaling $24.24mm, or just under 20% of the cap. Many of these 22 players have minimal hits that won't factor in to whether or not they make the team (D.J. Williams, Chris White, Nate Ebner). Others are good enough to warrant their cap space (Alfonzo Dennard, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Devin McCourty). There are roughly nine players who eat up a considerable portion of the cap who need to be evaluated.
Let's start from the bottom:
2. Matthew Slater ($1.1mm) - Slater is a key piece of special teams, featuring as a perennial Pro Bowler and a captain. Is $1.1mm worth it for a special teams player? Possibly.
3. Tommy Kelly ($1.74mm) - Kelly was a stud at the beginning of the season, but will be returning from a season ending injury. He wants to return, so it's likely the Patriots will fight to restructure his contract to save space.
4. Steve Gregory ($1.86mm) - Gregory is a starting safety and considered the smartest defensive back on the roster. His play on the field has not met his cost, though, and rising sophomore Duron Harmon could be a possible starter next season. Gregory's spot on the roster is far from certain.
5. Isaac Sopoaga ($2.01mm) - Sopoaga will be cut. He was a late season aged veteran rental who fell behind the depth chart.
6. Logan Mankins ($2.01mm) - This is tough since Mankins is a leader on the team. It's unlikely that he'll be willing to reduce his contract, although his level of play is certainly not where it has to be.
7. Stephen Gostkowski ($2.51mm) - Ghost is undeniably a top 5 kicker in the league. While his cap hit is great, he's not of real risk to be cut due to the consistency he provides.
8. Dan Connolly ($2.51mm) - Connolly has consistently been one of the lowest graded, if not the lowest graded, starting linemen for the past four seasons. He's extremely valuable as a utility depth player, but his contract represents the second greatest cap savings figure and that might be too enticing to ignore for a likely-replaceable player.
9. Vince Wilfork ($7.51mm) - The big dog. Wilfork's cap savings will be a large specter hanging over the off-season. He's old, coming off a season ending injury, and he wasn't playing elite football at the start of the season. Still, he's a fantastic lineman, leader, person, and someone you want on your team with no questions asked. Wilfork will be with the team next season, one way or another.
The Patriots move forward with ten potential free agents after the 2014 season. Here's the play-by-play.
1. Vince Wilfork - As stated before, his cap hit is way too large. Expect the Patriots to extend him into a three year deal to spread his cap hit over time and reduce its 2014 impact.
2. Dan Connolly - Connolly will likely have to restructure or be released. The only ways I see it. I see him restructuring as well, turning in another three year deal and getting moved to Center.
3. Stephen Gostkowski - Ghost needs to be around. He'll get another four year deal, likely with a consistent salary and will flatten out his cap hit. He currently posts a $3.8mm cap hit, based on his $2.9mm base. Look for a $2.5mm base with a greater signing bonus, although I wouldn't be shocked if he played out his contract.
4. Steve Gregory - Gregory will get the Connolly ultimatum; restructure, or walk. I see him walking and Harmon holding down the fort.
5. Tommy Kelly - Kelly wants to walk off into the sunset and he wants to do it with the Patriots. He'll willingly restructure to reduce his cap hit.
6. Matthew Slater - Slater is like Ghost; he could restructure, or he could play out his contract and wait until after the season. I wouldn't be surprised by either.
7. Devin McCourty - DMC's contract is due to escalate because of his outstanding performance on his rookie contract. He's a key piece to the defense and the Patriots want to keep him around. Look for the Patriots to find a way to sign him to a Mankins/Gronkowski-esque 6 year, $45-50mm contract to stay with the Patriots. The Patriots will have to spend money to keep D Money.
8. Shane Vereen/Stevan Ridley/Brandon Bolden - All three are free agents, but don't expect the Patriots to break the bank for them. They'll play out their contracts, the Patriots will offer team-friendly deals, and will let them test the market.
9. Nate Solder/Marcus Cannon - Solder has a 5th year option, so it's possible the Patriots will utilize that feature. However, it's also likely they'll extend him in order to structure his cap impact. Cannon doesn't have the option, but his role on the team is in question. Do they view him as a guard or a tackle? Cannon's likely to play out his contract.
Out of this group I expect Sopoaga, and Gregory to be cut, and Wilfork, Connely, McCourty, and Ghost to restructure.
I expect Connely to stay because we do need OL, and despite that he is not that good we at least need him for depth. Maybe he can restructure, and if he can that would be great. And I think we will cut Gregory because the Pats will stick with Harmon and let Tavon Wilson back up this time. Maybe they will bring Gregory back for cheaper cash.
Here is a good list of free agents: http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/nfl/45947/309/2014-nfl-free-agents
By the end of cutting and restructuring, I expect the Pats to be over 15 million in cap space. But not over 20 million. If we were to have this kind of cap space, I think we will most likely get one good OL, and the rest for depth. I don't think we will bring back Edelman or Talib, unless both will accept deals that are about 4-5 million a year. Or we could back-log both contracts, so we could sign them both with their cap hits being minimal for the first couple years. Not sure if BB will do that, unless he feels that our best chance to win the superbowl is in the next couple years (though for me I would rather get Brent Grimes or Terrell Brown than Talib).
We do need OL, and I would look at Asamoah or Rinehart for OG. I think OG is more of a need than Center right now considering Mankins' age and our lack of a RG. Both of those guys could garner some good cash, and despite that Edelman and Talib are free agents I think OL is a bigger priority than both of them.
With providing Rich's post, the cap situation, and free agents, what is a good direction to go to this offseason?