Assistant coaches, team doctors and front office staffers might not be the only New England Patriots employees on their way out of Foxboro this offseason.
The Patriots currently have just $5,641,036 in salary cap space, according to PatsCap.com, and though there aren’t many needs to fill in 2016, the team should use some of its available funds to extend linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. New England also could look to lock up pass rushers Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard for the future.
Here are some players the Patriots could part with to free up over $20 million in cap room. This is not to say the Patriots should cut bait with these players, just that releasing them would free up valuable space. All figures are via PatsCap.com.
LB Jerod Mayo
Mayo’s total cap figure is $11.4 million next season — only Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a higher number on the roster. Mayo has a $4 million option bonus that the Patriots are unlikely to pick up due March 9. If the Patriots elect not to accelerate Mayo’s bonus, he would become a free agent.
If the Patriots don’t want to let Mayo hit free agency, they’ll redo his contract. There’s no way they bring him back with an $11.4 million cap hit, since he was a part-time player in 2015.
WR Danny Amendola,
Amendola’s $6.8 million cap hit is higher than wide receiver Julian Edelman’s and tight end Rob Gronkowski’s, which means he’ll likely have to redo his contract for the second consecutive season to stick around.
OT Marcus Cannon,
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praises Cannon every chance he can get, but the swing tackle struggled mightily in the AFC Championship Game. His cap hit is $4,754,168.
OT Sebastian Vollmer
Vollmer is likely to be back, since he still has $2,083,334 due in guaranteed money, but he could be approached about restructuring his contract to be more incentive laden.
WR Brandon LaFell
LaFell never quite recovered from a foot injury that forced him to begin the season on the PUP list. He didn’t catch a touchdown all season and was passed on the depth chart in the AFC Championship Game by fourth receiver Keshawn Martin, who signed a contract extension through 2017.
The Patriots could wait to decide LaFell’s fate until after training camp, since they would save more money by releasing him after June 1. That also would give them a chance to see if he can be more productive with a full offseason.
DT Alan Branch
Branch is due an $800,000 option bonus on March 9. He’ll carry a $2,750,000 cap hit this season if that bonus is picked up. Branch played well this season, but he’ll be 31 at the beginning of next season, and the Patriots could use his money to re-sign Akiem Hicks, a younger defensive tackle option.
TE Scott Chandler
Chandler was supposed to be a bigger part of the offense, but he caught just 23 passes for 259 yards with four touchdowns this season. He was passed on the depth chart by Michael Williams.
DT Chris Jones
Jones has no guaranteed money remaining on his contract, and he missed all of the 2015 season on the PUP list. His money also could be used to retain Hicks.
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