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What to expect from the Patriots now that free agency, new league year officially start?

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2018 is officially in the books. On to 2019.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Happy new year! Today at 4:00 p.m. ET, the NFL calendar turns another page and the 2019 league year officially begins. For the 32 teams, this means the following:

Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2019 on all players who have option clauses in their 2018 contracts.

Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2018 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

Top 51 Rule begins. All clubs must be under the 2019 Salary Cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

All 2018 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

The 2019 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

Trading period for 2019 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2018 contracts.

What specifically does it mean for the New England Patriots? Let’s go through it step by step.

Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2019 on all players who have option clauses in their 2018 contracts.

While the Patriots one veteran player under contract who has an option clause in his deal for the 2019 season:

WR Matthew Slater

If the team picks up the option by the deadline, Slater will be on its roster for next season and not hit the open market. Furthermore, three other players have option clauses in their respective deals: as agreed upon in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams have the ability to pick up a first-round draft pick’s fifth year option prior to the player’s fourth year in the league. New England has three candidates:

DT Malcom Brown

WR Phillip Dorsett

DT Danny Shelton

The Patriots already decline all three of the options, making Brown, Dorsett and Shelton unrestricted free agents as soon as the market opens at 4:00 p.m. ET today.

Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

The following Patriots players entered the offseason headed towards restricted free agency:

WR Josh Gordon

CB Jonathan Jones

The Patriots took care of both on Tuesday: the team placed the $3.095 million second-round tender on Jones, and the $2.025 million original-round tender on Gordon. In case another team signs either of the two players to an offer sheet now, the Patriots would have five days to match or receive the draft pick appropriate for the tender as compensation — a second-round draft choice in Jones’ case, a third in Gordon’s.

Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a minimum salary tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2018 contracts who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

The Patriots have one exclusive rights free agent this year:

WR Cody Hollister

New England has not tendered the former undrafted free agent, who missed all of 2018 with a back injury, yet. If the club doesn’t extend an offer sheet to him by 4:00 p.m. ET, Hollister will become an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any club.

[An earlier version of this article stated that Hollister’s 2018 contract tolled due to his stint on the non-football injury list, but it looks as if that report was erroneous]

Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the 2019 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

The 2019 salary cap has been set at $188.2 million. All clubs have to be under this number by the start of the new league year. Right now, according to patscap.com’s Miguel Benzan, the Patriots are under the cap by about $12.39 million — a number that already includes the restricted free agency tenders for Josh Gordon and Jonathan Jones.

Top-51 means that only a team’s 51 most expensive contracts count against the salary cap.

All 2018 player contracts will expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

Entering the offseason, the Patriots had 17 players scheduled to hit the open market today. The following will leave the club after agreeing to contracts offered by other teams:

OT Trent Brown: Signed by Raiders (4-year, $66MM)

DE Trey Flowers: Signed by Lions (5-year, $90MM)

WR Cordarrelle Patterson: Signed by Bears (2-year, $10MM)

CB Eric Rowe: Signed by Dolphins (1-year, $3.5MM)

New England also already took care of one member of its unrestricted free agency class:

DE John Simon: Re-signed by Patriots

This leaves the following players still up in the air and unaccounted for:

P Ryan Allen

DT Malcom Brown

WR Phillip Dorsett

K Stephen Gostkowski

RB Jeremy Hill

WR Chris Hogan

LB Ramon Humber

OT Ulrick John

LB Albert McClellan

CB Jason McCourty

DT Danny Shelton

OT LaAdrian Waddle

Expect at least a handful of Patriots moves to be announced today: New England re-signing both Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski seems like a formality, while the team expressed interest in bringing both Jason McCourty and Phillip Dorsett back into the fold.

The 2019 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

The free agency frenzy begins which means that teams can officially offer contracts to players who are officially allowed to sign them; something both parties were prohibited to do during the so-called “legal tampering period” — at least in theory. As Trent Brown’s deal with the Oakland Raiders shows, those rules are not exactly taken 100% seriously by clubs: Brown agreeing to the offer was reported only nine minutes into the legal tampering window.

The Patriots, of course, have made one move so far: the team will re-sign running back Brandon Bolden, who spent the 2018 season with the Miami Dolphins, to a two-year contract.

Trading period for 2019 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2018 contracts.

Last week, the Patriots agreed to trade a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 for defensive edge Michael Bennett and a seventh-rounder that same year. The trade will become official once the new league year starts. It remains to be seen whether or not this will remain New England’s lone trade to happen this week, but judged by the club’s track record this should not be expected.

Today will be a busy day. Make sure to check Pats Pulpit — and particularly our free agency tracker — regularly to stay up to date on the latest news and rumors.