The New England Patriots did not waste any time to improve their roster when free agency started in mid-April. Coming off a disappointing 7-9 campaign with plenty of salary cap space available, New England went on an unprecedented spending spree that saw the organization hand out $159.6 million in guaranteed money.
As a result of this, the Patriots are not projected to pick up any additional 2022 draft picks through the league’s compensatory process — one that will officially end today. Beginning at 4 pm today, any players still on the open market after seeing their contracts expire at the start of the new league year can now be signed without having an impact on the compensatory balance sheet.
From the Patriots’ perspective, this sheet currently looks as follows (per Over The Cap):
While compensatory selections will not get announced by the NFL until next February, and are dependent on a secret formula that also puts playing time in consideration, for example, the final tally is ultimately expected to look similar to the projection above. If it indeed does, New England will enter the 2022 draft with a total of seven selections:
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
- Round 4
- Round 6
- Round 7 (via Las Vegas as part of the Trent Brown trade)
- Round 7 (via Houston as part of the Ryan Izzo trade)
As for the free agency process itself, New England still has eight veteran players unaccounted for at this point in time:
- RB Rex Burkhead: Profile
- WR Damiere Byrd: Profile
- LB Shilique Calhoun: Profile
- OT Jermaine Eluemunor: Profile
- C James Ferentz: Profile
- QB Brian Hoyer: Profile
- CB Jason McCourty: Profile
- LB John Simon: Profile
If any of these players get signed by different teams beginning today, they will no longer factor into the compensatory process in the Patriots’ favor. Accordingly, there might be some free agency movement in the coming days.
Two players to watch are Jason McCourty and Brian Hoyer. Both drew some interest from the New York-based teams — McCourty from the Giants, Hoyer from the Jets — and might sign new deals with them. McCourty furthermore remains a candidate to return to the Patriots after the team did not pick up any cornerbacks through the draft.
When it comes to the compensatory rule there is one exception worth mentioning, though. Teams have the option of placing the seldom-used tender sheet on a free agent today. The CBA explains it as follows:
In the event that an Unrestricted Free Agent has not signed a Player Contract with a Club by July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later, in the League Year following the expiration of his last Player Contract, he may negotiate or sign a Player Contract from July 22 until the Tuesday following the tenth week of the regular season, at 4:00pm New York time, only with his Prior Club, provided that the Prior Club by the Monday immediately following the final day of the NFL Draft for that League Year has tendered to the player a one year Player Contract [...]
New England did this with running back. LeGarrette Blount back in 2017 and therefore prolonged his counting against the compensation formula for another two months. The gamble paid off for the Patriots, as Blount ultimately signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that factored into that year’s compensatory formula. Don’t expect anything like that to happen this year, though.
The next date to take a look at when it comes to compensatory draft picks is therefore Week 10 of the regular season: if a team releases a free agency pickup before that deadline, he would no longer count against the formula — potentially altering the picture once again. However, it would be rather surprising if one of the player signed by the Patriots this year would be let go before that deadline.
It is a fluid process, as can be seen, but one that is expected to result in no return whatsoever for the Patriots next year.