“More sport than business,” Bill Belichick told CNBC’s Suzy Welch during an interview last offseason, “but it’s a business.” Belichick’s New England Patriots, who he leads in the dual-role of head coach and de-facto general manager, have been among the best-run business operations ever since owner Robert Kraft bought them in 1994. Especially with Belichick at the helm, the team has been the NFL’s best on and off the field.
No other organization has been able to balance creating a deep and leveled roster and the salary cap boundaries as well as New England since Belichick joined the operation in 2000. This offseason is another perfect example for that: instead of giving in to inflated values, the Patriots opted to move on from multiple starters from a year ago in left tackle Nate Solder, running back Dion Lewis, wide receiver Danny Amendola, and cornerback Malcolm Butler.
By letting the four players leave, the team was able to position itself well in terms of salary cap flexibility. Not overpaying for veteran players is not the only way to achieve that, though. The Patriots are also routinely among the best team’s in football when it comes to limiting the impact former players have on the salary cap: currently, New England has the eighth lowest dead money number in the NFL at $4,018,586 (via overthecap.com).
Seven players contribute to the Patriots’ dead money pool:
DT Alan Branch: $1,000,000
LB Shea McClellin: $833,334
LB David Harris: $625,000
OT Antonio Garcia: $589,614
LB Jonathan Freeny: $433,334
QB Jacoby Brissett: $340,302
OT Conor McDermott: $101,271
While Harris retired and Brissett was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last September, the other five players on the list were let go by New England. Not one of them had any noticeable impact on last year’s team.
The Patriots are not only in the NFL’s top quarter when it comes to limiting dead salary cap space, they also come in well below the league average of $10.8 million. Furthermore, they are also once again the undisputed class of their division as the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills all rank in the top-10 when it comes to salary cap space occupied by players no longer on the roster.
While the Dolphins and Jets rank ninth and tenth with $15.0 million and $14.9 million, respectively, the Buffalo Bills have a higher dead money number than any other team in the NFL right now: $46.7 million. Former starters like Marcell Dareus ($13.6 million, traded) Eric Wood ($10.4 million, injury settlement), Cordy Glenn ($9.6 million, traded), and Tyrod Taylor ($7.6 million, traded) make up the bulk of Buffalo’s dead money hit.
For comparison, the combined salary cap number of the Patriots’ three highest paid players – Tom Brady, Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty – comes in at only $46.4 million.