Though Bill Belichick is never one to win the offseason — remember when the Browns were crowed as Super Bowl champs last spring? — the Patriots have been even quieter than usual thus far.
The reasoning is actually relatively simple: They’re right up against the salary cap.
According to cap guru Miguel Benzan, the Patriots have just over $1.1 million freed up now. As such, run-stuffing tackle Beau Allen has been their biggest out-of-town addition in free agency.
So how’d the Patriots’ payroll get so high? Let’s dive into their current cap situation:
Because of the way deals are structured, the Patriots have a hair under $26 million in dead money on the books for 2020. Before the first cut of training camp, they’ve already surpassed their dead cap hit from all of last year.
For the sake of comparison, the Bills have just over $1 million in dead money on their books right now.
Tom Brady’s departure carries a lot of it at $13.5 million, but he’s not alone. The Antonio Brown experiment hits the Patriots in the wallet for $4.75 million this year, cutting Stephen Gostkowski cost $3.2 million, and trading Michael Bennett leaves another $2 million.
With the salary cap at $198.2 million, about 13 percent is already spent on players that won’t be on the roster.
It pays to be the best
With Brady off the books, the two most expensive players on the roster are Stephon Gilmore ($18.67 million) and Joe Thuney ($14.78 million).
A rare splash in free agency, Belichick had to pay market price for Gilmore — the Defensive Player of the Year has certainly been worth the money — and his cap hit is a healthy one this year.
By putting the franchise tag on Thuney, the Patriots are paying him the average salary of the three highest-paid offensive linemen. Notice that’s all lineman, not just guards, so Thuney is making left tackle money in 2020. It’s no surprise the team has said they want to work out a long-term extension; it’d mitigate the cap hit.
Their combined salaries account for roughly 17 percent of the total cap.
This one is pretty straightforward: Young players are inherently cheaper than veterans, and the Patriots had the oldest roster in the NFL last season.
They’re starting to getting younger this offseason; parting ways with a 42-year-old quarterback didn’t hurt there.
MassLive’s Nick O’Malley calculated that as of last week, they’d dropped their average age from 27.6 to 26.2, but the core of the roster is still on the elder side.
Nobody has restructured yet
There’s money to be saved if players are open to renegotiating deals. It’s why the Patriots frequently did it with Brady.
By restructuring, Julian Edelman, Marcus Cannon, and Shaq Mason could all save New England more than $2 million against the cap this season, as could Gilmore ($4.7 million). There’s also a ton of money to be saved with extensions.
But the Patriots have yet to reach any — other than with pending free agents. There could be a couple reasons for that.
If a player likes their current deal, they’re not always apt to change things. Last year Dont’a Hightower was reportedly unwilling to restructure. And if Bill Belichick is viewing this as a bridge year and rebuilding on the fly, perhaps he doesn’t want cap hits increased down the road.