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Patriots could draw some inspiration from Lions’ deal with fullback Jason Cabinda

Related: Franchise tag might come in handy for the Patriots this year

Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With 18 of their players headed towards free agency, the New England Patriots will have to make some tough business decisions over the next two weeks. One of those includes whether or not to tender the three restricted FAs: wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as well as fullback Jakob Johnson.

While Meyers appears to be a relatively safe bet to get a tender offer — the second-round label appears most likely — the outlook is less clear for Olszewski and Johnson. New England’s relative lack of salary cap space in combination with the tender costs means that the club might decide against tendering either one of them. Alternatively, however, they could also be signed to contract extensions.

As far as Johnson is concerned, the Patriots might draw some inspiration from the Detroit Lions: the Lions recently extended their own fullback, Jason Cabinda, via a two-year contract worth $4.1 million.

Both the total value of the deal and its structure might serve as a baseline for New England in regards to Johnson. As broken down by Pride of Detroit’s Jeremy Reisman, the Cabinda deal is built as follows:

2022

  • $1.035 million base salary (fully guaranteed)
  • $500,000 signing bonus proration
  • $1.535 million salary cap hit

2023

  • $1.9 million base salary
  • $500,000 signing bonus proration
  • $100,000 per-game roster bonuses
  • $65,000 additional bonuses
  • $2,565 million salary cap hit

The final numbers listed in each of those two years are most important for cap purposes: they show how much Jason Cabinda costs the Lions versus their salary cap in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The Patriots re-signing Jakob Johnson to an extension carrying a similar cap impact would likely be a welcome move for the team. That is especially true for 2022.

Cabinda’s $1.5 million cap hit this year, after all, is significantly lower than the projected cost of the RFA tender. If New England was to tender Johnson at the lowest level — effectively the right of first refusal with no compensation attached to it — he would cost the club $2.433 million.

With the Patriots currently just $4.9 million under the cap, according to Miguel Benzan, signing Johnson to a new contract rather than tendering him would make sense. And if that happens, the structure could look similar to the one outlined above.

Regardless of what happens, Johnson does have a case for a new deal. An undrafted rookie in 2019, who joined the Patriots through the NFL’s International Pathway Program, the German-born fullback made the team’s practice squad out of training camp and was later elevated to the 53-man roster. The following year and with featured fullback James Develin retired, Johnson took over the job.

All in all, the 27-year-old has appeared in 38 games for the organization. While his numbers are nothing to write home about — 13 touches for 83 yards and one touchdown — Johnson has played a valuable role as a lead blocker in the running game and a special teamer.