The New England Patriots aren’t finished in free agency after signing the best player on the market.
The Patriots have just $5.5 million in salary-cap space to spend after giving cornerback Darrelle Revis a one-year, $12 million deal, but they have ways to free up more, which they’ll absolutely need.
The biggest shoe to drop – figuratively and literally — will be Vince Wilfork. He’s set to count for $11.6 million against the cap in 2014, and the Patriots can free up $8 million in spending money by releasing him or extending his contract (he’s in the final year of a five-year deal, so New England can’t restructure).
The Patriots also can free up money by restructuring or cutting guard Dan Connolly, safety Adrian Wilson and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. The Patriots can free up even more money by extending players such as safety Devin McCourty and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Here are some players the Patriots can sign, given their cap situation:
The Patriots need to bring in a veteran wide receiver or two. The player who still makes the most sense is Edelman. And since he hasn’t signed yet, he probably isn’t receiving the offers he expected on the open market.
With Aaron Dobson set to miss the beginning of the offseason training program after undergoing foot surgery, the Patriots’ need at wide receiver is even more dire. Edelman has quarterback Tom Brady’s trust, and he has only progressed as a receiver since making the transition from quarterback in 2009.
The Patriots still could go the home-run route and sign Hakeem Nicks, but that’s unlikely since the team would have to backload his contract and set itself up for potential cap problems in the future. That’s not the “Patriot Way.”
Backup plans: Emmanuel Sanders, Brandon LaFell, Jason Avant, Lance Moore
Peppers had a down season in 2013, so he might come cheaper than Jared Allen. The Patriots need cheap talent with high upside. Peppers might be on his last legs, but he still can be productive if used in a rotation with starting defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.
The Revis deal could spark other veterans to sign one-year deals with the Patriots in an attempt to grab a Super Bowl ring.
Backup plans: Jason Babin, LaMarr Woodley, Will Smith, Shaun Phillips, Calvin Pace
The Patriots need more depth at defensive tackle, and old depth might be the way to go. Signing Tommy Kelly to a two-year deal last season was a great idea in theory. And Kelly was playing at a high level before tearing his ACL.
Williams could be another player willing to sign for cheap to win a Super Bowl. He still can get after the passer from the middle of the defense, which is exactly what the Patriots need.
Backup plans: Alex Carrington, Pat Sims, Vance Walker