One of the story lines that will be worth monitoring between now and the draft is how the Patriots plan to deal with WR Danny Amendola. Amendola carries a $6.8M cap hit and the team could save $3.5M on their 2016 cap if they release or trade him before June 1st and $5.4M if they do it after June 1st. The Patriots drafted Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell and took flyers on Arizona State Receivers Devin Lucien and DJ Foster. Mitchell is a lock to make the roster whereas Lucien and Foster have an uphill battle to make the team.
Even though Mitchell is an outside WR, the Patriots picking him does affect Amendola because if Mitchell impresses in camp, that could move Chris Hogan from the X to the slot role. Hogan currently carries a $5.5M cap hit for 2016 because the Patriots front-loaded their RFA contract offer for him. Another problem that could occur is if UDFA DJ Foster winds up impressing the Patriots coaching staff in camp. Foster played RB at Arizona State, but is more natural receiver than runner. Foster has the measurables to be an effective slot man, finishing in the Top 5 in the short shuttle (4.07), long shuttle (11.12), and 3-Cone (6.75).
Potential in-house options to replace Amendola in the slot include Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper, and DJ Foster. Those are all unproven options and the Patriots certainly would prefer Danny Amendola over those three if they can get him to restructure his contract. We know that in a potential restructure that Amendola's cap number will not exceed Chris Hogan or Julian Edelman's $4.42M number. From the draft, it's pretty clear the Patriots are prepared to release Amendola should he choose to not restructure. If the Patriots do release Amendola, we may see the team change the fundamental approach in their offense to a lot more 2 TE sets with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett and 4th round pick Malcolm Mitchell take the #3 WR role.
So if a restructure were to take place, what would be the right cap number? Amendola would be the #4/5 option on the offense. His 2016 base salary number would have to be lower than Edelman's. Given Amendola's age, an extension is unlikely. We'll see soon if they do come up with an agreement.