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Patriots have uncharacteristically little salary cap space entering training camp

Related: David Andrews restructures contract, allowing Patriots to sign their remaining draft picks

NFL: JUN 07 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are set to kick off their 2022 training camp next Wednesday, and it will be a different one compared to years past. There are obvious changes: some players have arrived, some have left, and the coaching staff underwent some turnover as well.

There are more subtle differences as well, however, even though you won’t see them on the practice fields. The Patriots, after all, are entering this year’s camp with uncharacteristically little salary cap space at their disposal.

According to cap expert Miguel Benzan, the team has only $1.27 million available at the moment even with N’Keal Harry traded to Chicago and David Andrews recently restructuring his deal. For comparison, they were an average of $9.18 million under the cap entering training camp over the last nine years.

The last decade in full can be broken down as follows:

  • 2013: $10 million
  • 2014: $6 million
  • 2015: $8.9 million
  • 2016: $8.9 million
  • 2017: $14.1 million
  • 2018: $8.8 million
  • 2019: $5 million
  • 2020: $7.8 million (before Covid-19 opt-outs)
  • 2021: $13.1 million
  • 2022: $1.3 million

As opposed to last year, the Patriots have spent the entire offseason tight to the cap. This, in turn, left them under financial pressure in some instances and unable to retain some of their in-house talent such as free agency departees J.C. Jackson and Ted Karras.

Of course, teams can spend as much as they like as long as they don’t cross the league’s threshold which had been set at $208.2 million, this year. The Patriots could enter cap with $1 available and would still be fine from that perspective, but it would leave them vulnerable and underprepared for the in-season expenses that await — from practice squad formation to signing injury replacements.

Those expenses can vary based on circumstance, but the team will likely need around $5-$8 million to be competitive in this area. Needless to say that is short of this goal at the moment.

However, there are ways to increase cap space without having to make any major cuts or additional trades.

For example, the Patriots could sign some of their players like tight end Hunter Henry or punter Jake Bailey to contract extensions. Those two moves alone would create more than $7 million in new cap space, and would not be the only candidates on the roster.

There also is the classic salary-to-signing-bonus conversion, something New England did with both David Andrews and defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. earlier this year. The top target in this regard would be linebacker Matthew Judon, who is playing on a fully-guaranteed but convertible $11 million salary — one that could be reduced to create an additional almost $7 million.

So while the Patriots appear to be in a rougher shape than years past on the surface, there are relatively easy ways to increase their financial wiggle room.

Please make sure to give Miguel Benzan a follow (@patscap) and, if possible, to support his chosen charity: Habitat for Humanity of North Central Connecticut. He is trying to raise $120,000 by the end of the year, and every dollar counts. If you can, please donate here. Thank you.