Entering the final season of a three-year contract extension he signed with the New England Patriots during the 2018 offseason, running back Rex Burkhead was originally scheduled to hit the team’s salary cap with $3.91 million. This salary cap impact has now been altered, however: as first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates, the Patriots and Burkhead have agreed to restructure his deal through a classic salary-to-signing-bonus conversion.
The move reportedly works as follows: Burkhead gets a fully-guaranteed $550,000 bonus to sign the new pact, while both his base salary and roster bonuses get changed: instead of making $2.5 million in salary, the veteran is now earning $1.05 million; his roster bonuses decreased from $500,000 to $400,000. The restructure, which essentially can be seen as a pay-cut, in turn frees up $981,250 in additional salary cap space for the Patriots.
This is welcome news for an organization that entered the day just $263,489 under the cap, according to Miguel Benzan. That number was the lowest in the league, but Burkhead’s restructure gives the team more financial flexibility while increasing the cap space to $1,244,739.
The 30-year-old is heading into his fourth year with the Patriots after originally joining them as a free agency signing in 2017. Coming off arguably one of the best campaigns of his career, Burkhead registered 68 rushing attempts for a combined 306 yards and three touchdowns in 2019, and also added 30 catches for 311 additional yards. His numbers may not stand out, but they do reflect his role within New England’s running back rotation alongside early-down back Sony Michel and receiving option James White.
In this capacity, Burkhead was on the field for 275 of a possible 1,210 offensive snaps (22.7%) last year and saw regular action and touches as the team’s de facto RB3 — one that also was given consistent action in the kicking game: he played 50.6% of the Patriots’ special teams snaps (240 of 474), which tied him for fifth on the team. As a member of all four kick coverage units, he registered six combined tackles.
While the restructure does not guarantee his spot on the 53-man roster this year, it does help his case to earn a role alongside Michel and White as well as second-year man Damien Harris. New England also has veteran special teamer Brandon Bolden and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor under contract at the running back position.