New England Patriots have room to make one more big splash in free agency


The free agency ride rolls on in New England. In the past week, two more big moves shook the airwaves. And the salary cap.

First, after asking the Patriots to release him a couple weeks ago, “Big” Vince Wilfork ended up restructuring his contract with the organization. In addition to keeping the beloved defensive tackle in a Patriots uniform through 2014, the team also saved themselves roughly $5 million in cap room. The old deal counted $11.6 million against the cap, while the new deal counts only $6.683 million against the cap.

The structure of Wilfork’s new contract consists of a $1.3 million signing bonus, an additional $1.3 million in base salary. The Patriots also have the option to hold on to Wilfork for 2015 and 2016, which could keep him in New England throughout the entirety of his stellar career.

Then there is Ryan Wendell, who re-signed with the Patriots two weeks ago, but the details of his new contract were not accurately reported until just yesterday. Remarkably, those listening to ESPN’s Field Yates would have been aware of the reporting inaccuracies several days ago. Yates predicted that the NFLPA reported an extra zero on Wendell’s roster bonus, making it $2 million per year rather than $200,000 per year.

Remarkably, he was spot on. Guy is like a modern-day Nostradamus. Fortunately, he has since relieved me of my obligations related to this little gamble.

Now that we know the full details of the Wendell deal, we can calculate exactly how much cap room the Patriots have left to play with. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, the Patriots have $7.8 million of remaining cap room.

What Volin does not take into account is the inevitable rookie contracts that will stem from the 2014 NFL Draft. Fortunately, provides those estimates, because there are intricacies in the salary cap rules for rookies that I will never care to learn. They suggest that the Patriots will have to set aside $1,639,112 for their 2014 rookie class. That leaves about $6.2 million in cap room that the Patriots are free to spend this offseason.

Oh boy! That’s quite a bit of cash to play with. And it almost certainly means the Patriots are not done making headlines this offseason. For an organization that perennially generates far more revenue than the average NFL franchise, they will surely look to reinvest as much of that capital as possible in fresh talent.

Still, don’t expect Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick to go spending their $6.2 million all in one place. While another big-name signing is enticing, there simply isn’t much elite talent left in the free agent market. So who is still out there? Continued here…

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