The New England Patriots received some good news over the weekend when they were granted a salary cap credit of $6.55 million after settling outstanding grievances related to two of their former players, Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez. As a result of the credit, the Patriots’ dire cap situation improved noticeably: after struggling with limited financial resources all offseason — the team at one point had only $263,489 to work with — New England now finds itself $7.79 million under the NFL’s spending threshold.
This new-found flexibility opens numerous doors for the team, the most exciting of which being free agency. With the Patriots having some financial potency again, they could decide to go after some of the biggest names remaining on the open market: defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Everson Griffen or Damon Harrison are all still available, as are linebacker Alec Ogletree or wide receiver Taylor Gabriel.
The biggest name on the list, however, is former first overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney has remained on the open market ever since his contract with the Seattle Seahawks expired in mid-March. His situation is therefore somewhat comparable to that of former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was out of a job for 86 days before the Patriots picked him up on a cheap one-year contract. That said, a similar outcome in regards to Clowney should not be expected.
“I think Clowney wants to get paid,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said earlier this week during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “Clowney’s thinking is, like, ‘Where can I get paid as much as possible? And if I don’t have to go to training camp for a lot of it, Eh, that probably would be OK.’ [...] I think Clowney would just like to make a lot of money. […] I know he wants a one-year deal. I don’t think he would take just a short, tiny deal from the Patriots.”
If Clowney is indeed intent on maximizing his value, New England will likely not be his destination of choice despite the team’s recent increase in salary cap space. As Rapoport noted, the 27-year-old seems willing to wait until the right situation for him will emerge — and the Patriots offering that, at least from a financial perspective, seems unlikely. Instead, Bill Belichick’s team would likely rather use its resources differently than placing all of their proverbial eggs into one 6-foot-5 basket.
Think: rainy day fund. There will be in-season expenses, after all, and the practice squad will also have to get paid. Furthermore, any unused cap space can be rolled over into the next offseason — something that could come in handy considering that the salary cap situation is unclear for 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
While the thought of the ultra-talented pass rusher joining the Patriots’ defensive front seven (and thus filling arguably the unit’s most pressing need) is an intriguing one, Clowney would have to be willing to play by New England’s financial rules in order to make things work. Based on Rapoport’s statement and the general feeling around Foxborough, it seems unlikely that this will happen. Don’t expect the Patriots to bring Clowney on board.