After using the franchise tag on Joe Thuney and placing the second-round tender on restricted free agent Adam Butler, the New England Patriots entered the second day of the NFL’s legal tampering period with only around $5.4 million in salary cap space available. Considering that the Devin McCourty deal was not part of this equation yet, the team’s financial flexibility appeared to be limited especially in regards to still unsigned Tom Brady.
However, New England recently received some good news according to Patriots salary cap expert Miguel Benzan:
It happened. The Patriots finally got the Aaron Hernandez credit. Was expecting a negative adjustment of $170,826. Actual adjustment is $3,028,472. Off by $3,028,472. Only explanation is the $3.25M credit for Aaron Hernandez.
Even though Hernandez was released almost seven years ago, and later convicted of first-degree murder, there was still a contract dispute ongoing between New England and the NFL Players Association over the late tight end. The subject matter was 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 was decided in the Patriots’ favor.
Apparently, this is exactly what happened. New England has therefore gained some financial wiggle room less than 48 hours before the start of the new league year. For the moment, and with the credit now added, the team is roughly $8.65 million under the salary cap with the aforementioned Devin McCourty contract — he signed a two-year, $23 million deal, but the structure is not yet known — not part of the equation yet.
The Patriots, of course, can add more space if they a) extend or trade Joe Thuney to lower his franchise tag number of $14.78 million, b) extend other players such as cornerback Stephon Gilmore or linebacker Dont’a Hightower, or c) release high-priced veterans from the roster.