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Patriots 2014 Offseason – Step 2: Dealing with Expiring Contracts

In part 1 of this series, the Patriots roster had the accountant’s sword run over it to try and create some cap space. Since then, conditions on the ground have changed slightly with the projected cap now sitting at $133million as opposed to the $126.3 that was initially being mentioned. One of the suggested moves has also taken place with safety Steve Gregory getting released and saving $2.8m for 2014. Per spotrac.com, the Patriots now have $12.7m in available cap space which is not enough to try and improve the roster. Assuming that approximately half of the moves listed in part 1 still occur, the Patriots will have roughly $20m to spend to improve the team through free agency (leaving a little bit to spare for later acquisitions).

Before the team can look outside the organisation for help, they must first address the players who have expiring contracts. Some of these players are important and must be retained, while others can be replaced by younger, cheaper options. The big question is how much of the available cap space the Patriots want to devote to retaining their own proven commodities. For each player, an analysis of their negotiating position, a team-friendly contract and a big money deal for the player will be provided before a likely scenario is suggested. All cap figures are obtained from spotrac.com so blame them if any figures are off but they are usually a decent barometer.

Top Priorities

Aqib Talib – Cornerback

2013 Cap Hit: $4.8m

After finding the market in 2013 not to his liking, Talib will be hoping that somebody is willing to pay him top corner money. His value to the Patriots is immense and they will be desperately trying to bring him back as he is as close to a shutdown corner on the market.

What does each side want?

Talib wants to be paid like a top of the line corner which is currently going for around $8m per season if the Brent Grimes deal is any sort of reliable guide. There is no doubt that the Patriots would be at least a little bit hesitant to give Talib big money and long term security given his past indiscretions and the Aaron Hernandez dead money eating a hole in their finances. In addition to that, during the last two AFC Championship games, Talib has suffered injuries that kept him from having an impact. So the Patriots would like to try and keep him around the $5-6m annually and hope that he is willing to play at a discounted rate because of the mutual admiration between him and Belichick. Chances are the final number will be somewhere in the middle at around $7m per season.

Julian Edelman – Receiver

2013 Cap Hit – $0.765m

Talk about perfect luck, Edelman went from a mid-May, minimum salary signing to the Patriots best receiver this year. It was the first time he had stayed healthy for an entire season and it showed what a good receiver he could be. As one of the best slot receivers last season, the big question becomes, will Edelman be looking to break the bank after one good year?

What does each side want?

Edelman’s agent has a decent argument for his client to receive a similar contract to Danny Amendola at $6m per season. He overtook his teammate on the depth chart last season and outplayed him week after week. It would be very hard to see Edelman wanting to accept less money than someone who did not look as good as he did last year. With all of that being said, Edelman has a strong connection with Brady and he may feel his best chance for success is to come back at a lower rate. The Patriots will likely not want to go any higher than $4m per season for him and if he is not willing to do business he will be somewhere else.

Next in Line

LeGarrette Blount – Running Back

2013 Cap Hit: $0.68m

Blount underwent a nice resurgence last December as he took over the lead duties for the Patriots. He would be a useful player to retain as a compliment to Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen but at age 27, he may want a chance at a decent pay day before he hits the seemingly career ending age 30.

What does each side want?

Running backs do not get paid anywhere near as much as they used to which means the two sides valuations may not be too far apart. The Patriots know whatever they pay Blount will be the starting point for negotiations with Ridley so they will set a maximum value of around $1.5m annually on an incentive based deal. Blount will be looking for something closer to $3m and he will likely get the chance to test the market to see if anyone is willing to give him what he wants. With most middle of the pack runners being easily replaceable, chances are someone else will be the third choice back next season.

Ryan Wendell – Center

2013 Cap Hit: $1.02m

Having done a surprisingly good job anchoring the Patriots line for the last two seasons, the team now faces the question of how valuable is that anchor.

What does each side want?

At age 27 Wendell is a solid commodity to have but his value is not going to much higher, if he sticks around at approximately $1m per season then there is no doubt the team would be happy to have him back.

Will Svitek – Tackle

2013 Cap Hit: $0.95m

A solid veteran tackle who filled in well when asked to last season, Svitek is well aware of his role on an NFL team now. A reliable veteran who can come in and start a game or two when asked.

What does each side want?

Svitek likely wants to see more playing time than last season and the Patriots are not likely to be the place to offer him that. Depending on other moves he will be third or fourth on the depth chart which means he is likely to play in every game, it just comes down to whether or not he would like to compete for a starting job in a place like Miami or come back and serve a backup role with the Patriots.

Michael Hoomanawanui – Tight End

2013 Cap Hit: $0.63m

Surprisingly, Hooman has emerged as one of the Patriots most reliable tight ends in the past season and a half. While he was never quite able to replicate the production of his superiors on the depth chart, his contributions blocking in the running game were invaluable as the team turned to the ground attack. As a receiver his impact was fairly limited however as he was never quite able to get open enough to be a proper contributor.

What does each side want?

The team will be looking to try and upgrade the tight end position in the offseason and that may lead to Hooman being squeezed out. But if he is willing to come back into camp as a third or possibly fourth tight end depending on external acquisitions for a low price then the team would without a doubt welcome him back.

Dane Fletcher – Linebacker

2013 Cap Hit: $0.62m

A special teams stalwart who saw his playing time on defense increase as the unit began to get depleted with injuries. Fletcher’s best role is as a depth linebacker and top line special teams player.

What does each side want?

It all comes down to how Fletcher sees himself, if he believes that there is an NFL future for him on defense, he will most likely move on to another team. If the Patriots want to reward him for his current efforts working his way up from being an undrafted rookie, then he could stay for around $1m per season.

These Players can be Replaced

Brandon Spikes – Linebacker, Danny Aiken – Long Snapper, Andre Carter – Defensive End, Austin Collie – Receiver

For Spikes, the writing was on the wall when he was placed on IR before the team’s playoff run. His asking price will be just too much for a two down linebacker that struggles to play coverage in a passing league. Danny Aiken did not have a great season with Ryan Allen having to chase a lot of his snaps and he could be a candidate for replacement if he wants anything above the minimum salary. For Carter and Collie, both were brought in as mid-season replacements, Carter had a minimal impact and will likely retire as he has nothing left while Collie may come back at some stage during camp.

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