Bill Belichick brought March Madness to New England a few days early this year. If the quantity of transactions emanating from the Patriots' front office over the first week and a half of the new league year came as a surprise to you, it's because you forgot the cardinal rule of following this organization: Expect the unexpected.
Did you expect Jimmy Garoppolo to be traded by now? Wrong.
Perhaps you thought Bill would sit back and watch other clubs, flush with new cap space, outbid each other in hopes of landing some of the top names available. Maybe you expected him to nibble around the edges of the free agent market, signing a bevy of bargain players to team-friendly deals. Wrong again. Stephon Gilmore was inked to the largest outside free agent contract in team history.
And then there's the whole trading the 32nd pick in the draft to acquire a “number one” wide receiver thing. Expect the unexpected.
However, there is a way of making sense of this whirlwind of activity: following the salary cap.
There is no team more proficient at salary cap and roster management than the Patriots. They are the best in the business at, well -- the business. Their front office, more than any other organization, applies a multifaceted approach to building their roster.
The Patriots draft players and sign undrafted rookies. They claim players from waivers and poach from other teams' practice squads. They sign free agents; in-house and from outside the organization. They develop and promote their practice squad personnel. Last but certainly not least, they trade -- and trade -- and trade.
As we catch our breath following the previous week’s transactions, here is the current state of the Patriots salary cap.
Patriots’ 2017 adjusted salary cap: $173,298,888
NFL League Salary Cap: $167,000,000
Patriots 2016 carryover space: $5,292,335
Incentive adjustments: $1,006,553
Current number of players under contract: 65
Cap charge total for all 65 players: $151,951,587
Top 51 contracts: 144,766,587
2017 Dead Money: $1,422,690
Current 2017 cap space: $27,109,611
This cap space figure reflects all of the moves made through 4:00pmCT Friday 3/17. It was also calculated utilizing the Rule of 51 — a wrinkle in the CBA that counts only a team’s highest 51 salaries, allowing them to fill out their 90-man rosters without exceeding the salary cap. It’s important to note that any bonus money earned by players is still charged to the cap, regardless of their position inside or outside of the top 51. Why the top 51 instead of 53? No clue.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Due to the lack of top picks, and because of the Rule of 51, the Patriots’ draft class and undrafted free agent signings will likely only take up around $500,000 according to Miguel Benzan of patscap.com.
- The Rule of 51 expires at 12:00amET on the day of the first regular season game. At that point, the 52nd and 53rd salaries will be added to the 2017 cap.
- The team’s cap space will decrease once offseason workout payments are made to players. In 2016, the maximum a player could earn $6,240 in additional workout compensation.
- In 2017, a practice squad player earns $7,200 per week. At that rate, rostering a ten-man practice squad for the 17-week regular season would take up $1,224,000. No team in football takes care of their practice squad like the Patriots. In 2016 the club’s practice squad cap hit was $1,824,282, with a minimum per week salary of $6,900.
- Cutting WR Danny Amendola would currently create $5,835,000 in net cap space.
Reminder: it’s only March. There is still a long way to go this offseason.
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