The New England Patriots are entering the offseason with a long list of free agents-to-be but only limited resources: as calculated by PatsCap’s Miguel Benzan, the team is currently expected to have around $29.2 million in salary cap space available once the new league year begins on March 18. That being said, there are ways to increase this number with the most obvious being dumping or restructuring player contracts on the current payroll.
Of course, the Patriots could also gain some additional financial flexibility if some or all of their outstanding grievances are finally settled. According to Miguel, the following four have still not yet been decided and could have a major impact on New England’s cap situation if resolved over the next few weeks:
Antonio Brown: $9.0 million
Brown reportedly filed a combined nine grievances against his previous two teams — the Patriots and the Oakland Raiders — with the one over his signing bonus that New England refused to pay him still ongoing. The Patriots could gain $9.0 million if the grievance is settled in their favor, and given Brown’s behavior before and after his release in mid-September of last season it would not be surprise if that happened.
Aaron Hernandez: $3.25 million
Even though Hernandez was released almost seven years ago, and later convicted of first-degree murder, there is still an ongoing contract dispute between New England and the NFL Players Association over the late tight end. The subject matter is a $3.25 million signing bonus installment that was withheld by the club despite being guaranteed in nature, and would be added to its salary cap if the case gets decided in the Patriots’ favor.
David Parry: $179,200
The Patriots released Parry during their 2019 roster cutdowns, and the dispute between the two sides involves injury payments: the 27-year-old is looking for a split-salary of $448,000 that would have been paid to him had he spent the whole season on injured reserve. Per NFL rules, 40 percent — the $179,200 in question — were carried on the team’s books in 2019 and would be added to the 2020 cap if the Patriots won the grievance.
Cole Croston: $163,200
Croston’s grievance is essentially the same as Parry’s — he too was released by New England in 2019, and is trying to collect an injury salary — even though the sum in question is slightly lower: $408,000. As noted above, the Patriots had to carry 40 percent of it on their cap in 2019 and would get the money back if they won. As is the case with Parry’s dispute, a settlement between the two sides appears to be an option.
When looking ahead, the main questions for the Patriots will not just be if they win the grievances but also when decisions can be expected. Given that the league is entering its final season under the current collective bargaining agreement, however, it seems likely that the cases will be ruled on sooner rather than later. This certainly would be the preferred outcome for New England considering that up to $12.6 million are at stake.