The New England Patriots have lost some serious talent since the NFL’s legal tampering window opened last Monday. In total, nine of the team’s 16 unrestricted free agents have left the team, with some of them playing pivotal roles at least during the 2019 season: as colleague Rich Hill pointed out on Twitter, New England lost four of its top-10 players in total snaps from last season — an unprecedented exodus of foundational talent.
The biggest name on that list of departures is obviously quarterback Tom Brady, who has decided to leave the organization after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl wins. The future Hall of Famer is not the only noteworthy player to move on since last week, however: center Ted Karras, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, defensive tackle Danny Shelton and special teamer Nate Ebner also decided to sign new contracts elsewhere after playing prominent roles in New England.
Naturally, all those losses will be factored into the NFL’s compensatory formula for next year’s draft.
A quick reminder about the process: Each offseason, the NFL hands out an additional 32 picks to teams that have lost more talent during the previous year’s free agency period than they signed. While the concrete formula by which this distribution is calculated remains a secret, contractual value and playing time share appear to be key factors. Qualifying teams can receive up to four selections, with the 97th overall pick in round three the highest one.
The Patriots are very much in the running for that spot, even though it currently still belongs to a Los Angeles Chargers team that lost quarterback Philip Rivers to the Indianapolis Colts on a one-year, $25 million contract. Tom Brady and his two-year, $50 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could still leap-frog him, however, if some incentives currently classified as “non-likely to be earned” are met over the course of the 2020 season.
For the time, being, though, the Patriots are projected to receive the following four selections as calculated by Nick Korte of Over The Cap:
- Round 3, No. 98: Tom Brady: Signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-year, $50MM)
- Round 4, No. 136: Kyle Van Noy: Signed by Miami Dolphins (4-year, $51MM)
- Round 4, No. 142: Jamie Collins Sr: Signed by Detroit Lions (3-year, $30MM)
- Round 6, No. 218: Ted Karras: Signed by Miami Dolphins (1-year, $4MM)
As noted above, teams can only receive a maximum of four additional selections through the league’s compensatory system — something that the Patriots already experienced this year: they received four added picks for April’s draft, including two in the third round, after losing some serious talent during last year’s free agency. For 2021, the calculation is again expected to work in the team’s favor despite New England also having added seven outside free agents since last week.
A look at Over The Cap’s compensatory selections cancellation chart illustrates this:
Of course, the whole situation will remain somewhat fluid until after the 2021 season. While additional signings or losses — the Patriots still have three unrestricted free agents left on the open market — only factor into the equation until May 5, players making their new teams’ 53-man rosters and seeing regular action during the year will also have an impact on which selections will eventually be rewarded by the league come next offseason.
For the moment, however, New England’s 2021 draft board is projected to receive an additional influx of selections. The team already holds nine, with four more on their way:
- Round 1: Own selection
- Round 2: Own selection
- Round 3: Own selection
- Round 3: Compensatory selection (Tom Brady)
- Round 4: Own selection
- Round 4: Compensatory selection (Kyle Van Noy)
- Round 4: Compensatory selection (Jamie Collins)
- Round 5: Own selection
- Round 6: Own selection
- Round 6: New York Jets’ selection (Demaryius Thomas trade)
- Round 6: Dallas Cowboys’ selection (Michael Bennett trade)
- Round 6: Compensatory selection (Ted Karras)
- Round 7: Own selection
Add the fact that the team currently has only around $104.7 million in salary cap liabilities for 2021, and you can see that the Patriots might be in prime position to re-tool next year.