The New England Patriots are up to something. Over the past few days, the team reworked Tom Brady and Marcus Cannon’s contracts, increasing their cap numbers in 2020 and 2021 in order to provide some short-term cap space for the 2019 season. The Patriots wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t plan on making a move, so let’s break down the possible uses for the Patriots salary cap space.
How New England Patriots Could Use Their Salary Cap Space
We’ve already looked into a potential Trent Williams trade, so I won’t spend too much time on it here. In short, Williams is holding out from training camp after the Redskins mishandled a cancer scare late in 2018. He says no amount of money could bring him back to Washington, and the Redskins appear to be listening to trade offers. Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste still aren’t practicing, and the Patriots could use some insurance at left tackle.
The biggest hold up has been salary cap space. According to OverTheCap, Williams comes with an $11.05 million cap hit if traded. New England could handle that, but they’d need to free up more cap space as the season went on. The Patriots will need roughly $7 million to cover in-season expenditures, and acquiring Williams would leave them with just $1.94 million in available cap space. New England could create that space through restructures and releases, but they wouldn’t have much wiggle room for the entire 2019 season.
Veteran Wide Receiver
The Patriots have a legit WR1 in Julian Edelman, promising rookies in Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry, and an impressive amount of veteran depth in Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, and Demaryius Thomas. However, they could still use a dependable, safe veteran to start opposite Edelman. Dorsett and Harris have never handled starting duties, while Thomas is still working his way back from a 2018 Achilles injury. Meyers and Harry have had their moments in training camp, but rookie wide receivers typically need time to develop in the NFL.
The most likely trade candidate is Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohammad Sanu. According to OverTheCap, Sanu carries a $7.65 million cap hit in 2019 even though he’s the third receiver on Atlanta’s depth chart. The Falcons just handed out huge contracts to Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett and still need to pay Julio Jones. The Falcons could choose to move Sanu, and the Patriots have an abundance of draft picks in 2020. He’d only have a $6.25 cap hit if traded, and it probably wouldn’t take more than a fourth-round pick to acquire his services.
Additionally, the Patriots could also go for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin carries a $4.5 million cap hit if traded, and he’s reportedly fighting for a roster spot. Considering his status on the team, New England probably wouldn’t have to give up much for his services. Goodwin isn’t anything special, but his elite speed could do wonders for the deep passing game while opening up the underneath routes.
Bringing Back Rob Gronkowski
This is the most fun option. Rob Gronkowski retired following the 2018 season, but he might not stay retired. Several sources have suggested Gronkowski will come back at some point in the 2019 season, including Gronkowski himself. Gronkowski technically is under contract for 2019, and the Patriots would need to accommodate his cap number if he un-retired. This gives them the financial freedom to do so, and they could even add in a little extra money if Gronkowski needed the motivation to get back on the field.
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