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2021 NFL free agency: Early contract details show how the Patriots are bolstering their middle class

Related: Patriots free agency tracker: News, rumors, signings, instant analysis

Miami Dolphins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Based on first reports, the New England Patriots spent more than $200 million in total contractual value on Monday: they signed seven outside players and also kept two of their in-house free agents in the fold. As always, however, the initially reported numbers show only a fragment of the picture and need more details to be properly assessed.

Those details, at least when it comes to three of the deals signed by the Patriots early during the legal tampering period, were reported by Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle on Monday night: the free agency pacts of defensive back Jalen Mills and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne as well as the contract extension for defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. While not every incentive is known at this point, this builds a foundation to work with.

Miguel Benzan, better known as Pats Cap on Twitter, then went on to outline the respective deals in greater detail

DB Jalen Mills: Four years, $23.9 million

  • Salary: $17.5 million
  • Signing bonus: $2.5 million
  • Roster bonuses: $3.94 million
  • Cap numbers: $4.56 million (2021), $6.13 million (2022), $6.63 million (2023), $6.63 million (2024)

The breakdown of Jalen Mills’ contract confirms what the raw numbers already hinted at. The deal is not just a good one for a player with high upside but inconsistent performances on his résumé, but also from New England’s perspective: the salary cap hits are manageable throughout the duration of the contract and the team could have a comparatively easy out after the second season when the cap savings start exceeding the dead money charge.

For a more comprehensive breakdown, please take a look at this graphic.

WR Kendrick Bourne: Three years, $15 million

  • Salary: $8.5 million
  • Signing bonus: $4.25 million
  • Roster bonuses: $2.2 million
  • Cap numbers: $3.12 million (2021), $5.67 million (2022), $6.17 million (2023)

If Kendrick Bourne’s reported incentives for the 2021 season are, as is projected, not likely to be earned, his salary cap number will be just $3.12 million — 13th highest on the team with all the contracts that currently are known in greater detail. While the cap impact will climb quickly over the next two years, the Patriots have set themselves up to evaluate Bourne’s deal after the 2022 season and possible part ways at that point.

For a more comprehensive breakdown, please take a look at this graphic.

DE Deatrich Wise Jr: Four years, $22 million

  • Salary: $13 million
  • Signing bonus: $5 million
  • Roster bonuses: $4 million
  • Cap numbers: $3.25 million (2021), $6.25 million (2022), $6.25 million (2023), $6.25 million (2024)

While initial reports of Deatrich Wise Jr’s deal called it a four-year deal worth up to $30 million, that figure includes playing time incentives that are presumed as not likely to be earned at this point in time. Accordingly, the actual value of the contract and its salary cap hits are more reasonable from the Patriots’ point of view. What the deal does show, however, is that the team has a role in mind for the former fourth-round draft pick.

For a more comprehensive breakdown, please take a look at this graphic.

Patriots analysis

The first three deals that were reported in greater detail show that New England was comfortable giving out longer-term deals on Monday, but they do not all fall into the same big-money category as those signed by tight end Jonnu Smith or linebacker Matthew Judon. The Mills, Bourne and Wise Jr. contracts are much more aimed at bolstering the middle class of the roster and improving its overall depth at their respective positions.

All three of them should therefore be considered as locks to be on the Patriots’ 53-man roster come the regular season.