Yesterday evening, the NFL sent out a memo to all 32 of its member clubs informing them about the 2018 salary cap one week before the legal free agency tampering period begins. As first reported by ESPN's Field Yates, the league and representatives from the NFL Players Association opted to set this year's cap at $177.2 million – another massive increase when compared to last year ($167 million).
As a result of the salary cap number being officially announced, we now also know how much available space the New England Patriots have. According to calculations by patscap.com's Miguel Benzan, the reigning AFC champions are under the cap $14.650,554 million. When compared to the rest of the league, the Patriots rank 24th overall (via OverTheCap.com).
Considering that the team has a lengthy list of free agents to be, it will likely try to increase its cap space by either releasing or restructuring multiple contracts. In fact, New England could create an additional $15 million by letting just five rotational members of the roster go. The team could also create another $15 million in cap space by restructuring the contracts of four cost-intensive players.
With the salary cap announced, we now also know the franchise tag numbers for this offseason (in millions):
Running back: $11.866
Wide receiver $15.982
Tight end: $9.846
Offensive line: $14.077
Defensive end: $17.143
Defensive tackle: $13.939
The Patriots have multiple candidates to receive the tag but it appears highly unlikely that the team will actually use it on players like running back Dion Lewis or wide receiver Danny Amendola. New England's number one free agency priority, offensive tackle Nate Solder, has a clause in his contract that prohibits the team from placing the franchise tag on him.