After a slew of Patriots roster additions following the start of NFL free agency last week, clarity on the impact of those contracts on New England’s salary cap continues to improve daily.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Mike Reiss provided Patriots fans and cap enthusiasts with essential contract details on returning Patriots linebacker John Simon and new interior defensive lineman Mike Pennel. On Wednesday, ESPN’s Field Yates reported on the details of Phillip Dorsett's one-year deal.
OLB John Simon: 2 years, $7.125 million— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 19, 2019
Base: $900k (g'td)
Roster bonus: $350k ($21,875 per game)
Roster: $350k ($21,875 per game)
ANALYSIS: Reflects how he became key contributor.
2-years, $4.15 million with $3 million in incentives available, $1.65 million guaranteed at signing
2019 cap hit: $1,665,625
2020 cap hit: $2,375,000
After carving out multiple roles on the Patriots’ sub-rushing and special teams units, the former Ohio State Buckeye enters his seventh NFL season with the security that comes with a $900,000 guaranteed salary and $900,000 in pocket money this spring (signing and workout bonuses).
The terms of each season’s $1.5 million in available incentives have yet to be reported, but it’s very likely that at least some, if not all, of the incentives will be tied to Simon’s playing time. In 2018, he participated in just 17.74% of New England’s defensive snaps in 11 games, as he didn’t join the club on the field until week four of the regular season. However, with Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers gone, his role could definitely increase in 2019.
Simon’s $1,665,625 cap hit should signify that all $1.5 million of the incentives are being classified as not likely to be earned, and won’t count against this year’s cap. But, if he does earn any of the incentives, those amounts will be included as a negative adjustment in the Patriots’ 2020 adjusted team cap calculation. Should we learn later that a portion of the incentives are tied to winning a Super Bowl, that amount would be considered likely to be earned for 2019 and immediately count against the cap.
Unlike incentives, any per-game active roster bonuses that are earned during the season after previously being classified as not likely to be earned immediately count towards that season’s cap. So, if Simon is active for all 16 games in 2019, the Patriots will start losing $21,875 in cap space on a weekly basis, starting after week 11.
The linebacker’s cap hit accounts for just 0.85% of the Patriots’ adjusted cap this season, ranking 30th on the team. If he is cut next spring, the Patriots would create $1,625,000 in cap space before replacing him with a player in the top-51, essentially making the deal a one-year pact with a team option for 2020.
DT Mike Pennel: 2 years, $8 million— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 19, 2019
Roster bonus: $800k ($50k per game)
Roster bonus: $800k ($50k per game)
ANALYSIS: DTs project to play 40-60%. Good fit for player and team
2-years, $5 million with $3 million in incentives available, $500,000 guaranteed at signing
2019 cap hit: $2,150,000
2020 cap hit: $2,850,000
The Patriots fill a big need with the big-bodied Pennel — a former Arizona State Sun Devil who enters his sixth NFL season after going undrafted in 2014 and spending three years in Green Bay before a two-year stint with the Jets netted him just under $5.5 million in cash.
Pennel’s two-year deal with the Patriots shares the same structure as John Simon’s, but with larger cash totals replacing the stronger year-one guarantee. His entire $800,000 per—game bonus total will count against the team’s 2019 cap, as he was active for 16 games in 2018, and the team would a receive credit towards the 2020 adjusted team calculation for any games that he is inactive this season.
As a player who could be destined for a large role in 2019, it’s quite feasible that the former Jet’s $1.5 million in available incentives each season are also structured much like Simon’s. Pennel played in 31.96% of the Jets’ defensive snaps a year ago, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see 35% and 45% playing time thresholds at the heart of the package, as the departure of Malcom Brown leaves 43.72% of last season’s snaps unaccounted for this year.
Pennel’s 2019 cap hit of $2.15 million accounts for 1.09% of the team’s adjusted cap — an excellent value for a player who projects as a starter next to Lawrence Guy on early downs. The value of the deal is further highlighted when viewing it through a league-wide lens of the interior defensive line position, as its $2.5 million APY ranks 48th among all interior defensive linemen, and 41st among non-rookie contracts at the position, according to overthecap.com.
Source: Patriots WR Philip Dorsett's 1-year deal includes a $500K signing bonus, a $1.5M base salary and $600K in per-game roster bonuses. He counts $2.6M against the salary cap.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 20, 2019
1-year, 2.6 million with $500,000 guaranteed at signing
2019 cap hit: $2,600,000
Back for another year after spending the previous two in Foxborough, 2019 appears to present Dorsett with his best chance at earning a serious role in the Patriots’ offense.
The deal gives Dorsett some solid year-one cash, but were it not for a wide receiver depth chart that currently provides sparse competition for the former first round pick, his $500,000 in guarantees wouldn’t hinder the Patriots from cutting him to save cap room at rooster cut-down time. Last season alone, the Patriots accrued $1,016,056 in dead money (not counting the grievances by Malcolm Mitchell and Kenny Britt) at the wide receiver position in attempts to round out the depth chart behind a suspended Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan.
However, as it currently stands, Dorsett is practically a roster lock and should have his sights set on the WR2 role that has been vacated by Chris Hogan. His 2019 cap hit accounts for 1.32% of the team’s adjusted cap, which ranks 23rd on the current roster.
All told, the three contracts cost the Patriots $2.13 million in 2019 cap space after replacing three $570,000-salaried players in the top-51. Their current cap space figure — not including Ryan Allen’s new contract — now sits at just below $3.4 million.