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NFL free agency 2023: Patriots make Joe Cardona the highest-paid long snapper in the league

Cardona has signed a four-year deal with the Patriots.

NFL: NOV 20 Jets at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even though it ended with him returning to the New England Patriots, Joe Cardona’s first ever trip to free agency was a lucrative one. The Navy product, who had been with the Patriots since arriving as a 2015 fifth-round draft pick, re-signed with the club on a four-year contract that is making him the highest-paid long snapper in the NFL.

Cardona’s deal carries a total value of $6.3 million as well as $2.6 million in guarantees. Both of those numbers as well as the yearly average of $1.58 million are the highest marks in the league at the position — a reflection of how confident the Patriots are in the 30-year-old bouncing back from the foot injury that prematurely put an end to his 2022 campaign.

In full detail, Cardona’s new pact looks as follows:

Joe Cardona: Contract details

2023:
Base salary: $1.17 million (fully guaranteed)
Signing bonus proration: $250,000
Roster bonus: $68,000
Workout bonus: $23,000
Incentives: $100,000
Salary cap hit: $1.49 million

2024:
Base salary: $1.21 million (incl. $435,000 guaranteed)
Signing bonus proration: $250,000
Roster bonus: $68,000
Workout bonus: $23,000
Incentives: $100,000
Salary cap hit: $1.55 million

2025:
Base salary: $1.26 million
Signing bonus proration: $250,000
Roster bonus: $68,000
Workout bonus: $23,000
Incentives: $100,000
Salary cap hit: $1.6 million

2026:
Base salary: $1.3 million
Signing bonus proration: $250,000
Roster bonus: $68,000
Workout bonus: $23,000
Incentives: $100,000
Salary cap hit: $1.64 million

As was pointed out by salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, Cardona’s cap number will increase by 9.8 percent over the length of his new contract. The salary cap, for comparison, is projected to go up by at least 33 percent over the same four-year span. As a consequence, Cardona — who is currently only taking up under 0.7 percent of New England’s cap — will count even less relative to the spending ceiling in the coming years.

The only major difference between the first two years of the deal and the last two is the guarantees and the decreasing dead cap charge if released. Whereas Cardona’s salary is fully guaranteed in 2023 and partially 2024, that is not the case over the final two seasons. Meanwhile, with no salary guarantees left and his signing bonus proration getting paid out yearly, the Patriots will save money in case of a release after the 2024 season.

Of course, based on his previous eight seasons with the organization and standing as a well-respected locker room leader, it is difficult to envision such a move being made. However, from a purely fiscal perspective, the Patriots will have a bigger commitment in 2023 and 2024 than over the last two seasons of the contract.