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NFL projects 2019 salary cap to increase once again; Patriots will still need every dollar they can get

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The cap will grow once more.

Chicago Federal Reserve Hosts Educational ‘Money Museum’ Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The NFL’s official salary cap number for the 2019 season will not be set until early March, but an early projection sent out from the league to its 32 clubs shows that they can expect another big increase. According to the memo, next year’s cap is projected to grow to somewhere between $187.0 million and $191.1 million — however, a larger number than that would also not be a surprise considering how those projections worked in the past.

For the New England Patriots this means that they will have some wiggle room but as things stand right now still come relatively close to the cap for the second straight year. According to the Boston Sports Journals’ Miguel Benzan, the team currently has cap commitments of $172.1 million for next season — a number that does obviously not include the 21 players who are currently scheduled to hit free agency next season.

This list of players includes plenty of depth options but also some core contributors on this year’s team:

P Ryan Allen (UFA)

DT Malcom Brown (UFA)

OT Trent Brown (UFA)

WR Phillip Dorsett (UFA)

DE Trey Flowers (UFA)

WR Josh Gordon (RFA)

K Stephen Gostkowski (UFA)

RB Jeremy Hill (UFA)

WR Chris Hogan (UFA)

WR Cody Hollister (ERFA)

LB Ramon Humber (UFA)

OT Ulrick John (UFA)

CB Jonathan Jones (RFA)

LB Albert McClellan (UFA)

CB Jason McCourty (UFA)

WR Cordarrelle Patterson (UFA)

CB Eric Rowe (UFA)

OG Brian Schwenke (UFA)

DT Danny Shelton (UFA)

DE John Simon (UFA)

OT LaAdrian Waddle (UFA)

The two players on the list who are projected to generate the most interest in case they hit the open market are starting left tackle Trent Brown and defensive edge Trey Flowers — two players at high-value positions that are playing at a Pro Bowl-worthy level at the moment. Other players on the list are also currently important contributors on the 2018 Patriots, however, from wide receivers Josh Gordon and Chris Hogan to cornerback Jason McCourty and the two kickers.

In order to keep them all and fit them under the cap, the Patriots will likely do some restructuring, cutting, and extending next year. The players that first come to mind are quarterback Tom Brady ($27.0 million salary cap hit; extension), tight ends Rob Gronkowski ($11.9 million; restructure/retirement candidate) and Dwayne Allen ($7.3 million; release candidate), and safety Devin McCourty ($13.4 million; restructure/extension candidate).

By altering those contracts one way or another, the Patriots could create plenty of cap room to add to their current projection.