Later today, the New England Patriots will officially announce the signing of wide receiver Antonio Brown. And when that happens, he immediately hits the team’s salary cap with a number that appears to be quite reasonable for a player of his caliber: as was announced earlier today, and has since been broken down by colleague Brian Phillips, the 31-year-old is expected to hit the Patriots’ books with ‘only’ $5.97 million in 2019.
While the number could put New England in a dangerous area when it comes to its salary cap — depending on follow-up moves less than $1.0 million could remain — the deal is still a very good one from the Patriots’ perspective despite some future ramifications (Brown will hit the team’s 2020 cap with $4.5 million whether he is on the roster or not). After all, the seven-time Pro Bowler is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
Adding him to a group of pass catchers already featuring the likes of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and Demaryius Thomas — let alone receiving backs James White and Rex Burkhead — could pay tremendous dividends. At the very least, it once again shows how the Patriots’ front office is playing chess while other teams’ staffs keep playing checkers when it comes to investing their money.
The Patriots will now roll with Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, & Julian Edelman at a combined $16.5M of 2019 cap going forward… Odell Beckham Jr.’s 2019 cap hit is $17M.
If one social media post has ever summed up the Patriots’ approach to business, this might be it: New England is not putting its proverbial eggs in one basket, unlike the Cleveland Browns and star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. Instead, the Patriots are spreading out cap hits at positions like wide receiver to maximize their roster’s depth and top-to-bottom talent — and flexibility in case injuries strike higher up on the depth chart.
The problem, at least for some teams, is that the Patriots are in a unique situation when it comes to the business-side of the NFL. Bill Belichick has the safest seat in all of football, and can essentially do as he pleases because he does not necessarily need to invest in star players. Instead, he can be quite selective and bring players in based not on name but rather on potential within the system that has been built for the last two decades.
Antonio Brown is, of course, one of the biggest names in the league but the underlying principles remain the same: the Patriots are in a position to afford to bring him in because of how they structured their cap in the first place — only three players have hits of more than $10 million — which in turn is possible because of Belichick’s job security. Furthermore, they are also not ‘married’ to Brown.
The same cannot be said for other teams in the league. The Browns are one example, but there are countless others as well which is why no team has come anywhere close to reaching Patriots levels of success over the last few years.