Patriots Mailbag: Free Agents New England Can Still Realistically Sign

Free agency officially began Wednesday, and so too did the tradition of certain New England Patriots fans panicking because their team wasn’t doing enough.

Of course, this strategy has worked out pretty well for the six-time Super Bowl champions, so there’s no reason to freak out. But some Patriots fans still forget every March. Fun!

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyed saw someone today say the Pats are clearly over the cap given all their signings. Do teams have time to create cap space or must they just hold off on making the signings official until they free up cap space #MailDoug
— @jack_roos86
Unless the Patriots got some unbelievable bargains or were very creative in structuring the contracts of their latest additions, then they’re right up against the cap.

They had just over $12.3 million in cap space before free agency began. They have since signed running back Brandon Bolden, wide receivers Phillip Dorsett, Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris, tight end Matt LaCosse, defensive end John Simon, defensive tackle Mike Pennel, cornerback Jason McCourty and safety Terrence Brooks.

Because of the top-51 rule, the Patriots actually have about $17.2 million to spend on those nine free agents.

Here are the reported contracts we know:

McCourty: two years, $10 million
Simon: two years, $7.2 million
LaCosse: two years, up to $4.8 million

Here are some low-ball projections for the Patriots’ latest signings’ 2019 cap hits:

McCourty: $3.5 million
Simon: $3 million
Dorsett: $3 million
Pennel: $3 million
Brooks: $1.5 million
Bolden $1 million
LaCosse: $1 million
Ellington: $790,000
Harris: $705,000

That’s $17.5 million, and we’d have a hard time chopping more money off of those projections. And even if we did, that would still mean the Patriots have little to no cap room.

And we might be really low-balling Dorsett’s contract. We have no idea what how to gauge his value.

What the Patriots can do at this point is stagger processing the deals. They announced Bolden and McCourty on Thursday. We might see a few more deals get announced Friday. Some might not be announced until next week. That allows the Patriots time to create cap space. The most obvious way to do so is extending quarterback Tom Brady’s contract. They also could release defensive end Adrian Clayborn, creating $4 million more in cap space, or extend linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

Keep in mind, the Patriots will need roughly $3 million in cap space for their draft and about $6 to $7 million to play with during the 2019 season.

The Patriots are projected to have much more cap space next season. They could kick the can down the road on some of their bigger cap hits, though they usually prefer not to do that.

While we’re talking about signings, I think Pennel will be very solid as a run-stuffing nose tackle. That’s an under-the-radar signing I expect to work out.

what’s the chances they didnt get golden tate, they go for jordy Nelson? I think he fits the scheme well. #MailDoug
— @justinobenauer
Well, the Patriots didn’t get Golden Tate. I do think Jordy Nelson is a fine fit. The Patriots, however, can’t and won’t pay exorbitantly to get him. Expectations also should be tempered for the 33-year-old receiver. He’s a big name, and probably a better option than guys like Ellington, Harris and Damoun Patterson. But he’s two years removed from a 1,000-yard season. Over the last two years, he has 116 catches for 1,221 yards with nine touchdowns.

I could see him filling Chris Hogan’s old role.

Do you think we sign Blake Bortles?
— @Dennis_Andrade2
I don’t think it’s as laughable as it might sound. I reached out to someone in the know about the possibility. And without revealing the answer, it led me to believe it’s … possible.

Bortles was less than impressive as a starter with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he would provide more upside than someone like Brian Hoyer.

Will the pats contact Marty Bennett to pkay with his brother? With the pats having 12 draft picks in this draft do you see BB trading picks for a productive wr?
— @alldunn4now207
It sounds like Martellus Bennett, who’s retired, is interested in playing, or maybe he’s just having fun with the idea.

Tom Brady wants Martellus aboard.

Now it’s up to Bill Belichick. If Marty really is willing to play for cheap, as he claimed on Twitter, then he’s a better option than many of the free-agent tight ends.

Who’s a remaining free agent that you’d like to see the Patriots sign? #MailDoug
— @lc_3344
Realistically? Either Nelson or Randall Cobb at wide receiver and LaAdrian Waddle at offensive tackle. It would be easy to say Ndamukong Suh, Justin Houston and Jamie Collins, but the Patriots just don’t have the cap room.

Do you think Patriots will draft WR in at least round 2 considering past issues with it and not picking high after? Seems like the class there is more sure than in other years. Also – who would you prefer with #32? Big 3 TE (TJ, Fant, Smith) or DL?
— @KubaKazula
If the Patriots keep their two second-round picks, then yes, I do expect them to draft a wide receiver in the first two rounds. The need, currently, is great unless you’re a really big fan of Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris.

And I’d probably prefer a defensive lineman if they can find a three-down player. If only two-down run stuffers and situational pass rushers are available, then I’d go a different route.

Who do you see as the biggest potential contributors from players that are coming back from IR/rookies that didn’t play much last year? I see a ton of potential there.
— @b3nbluhm
The biggest is Isaiah Wynn, who is fully expected to be the Patriots’ starting left tackle.

Currently, based on the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart, Braxton Berrios would be a key contributor in 2019. Let’s see if he can impress in training camp.

Quick questions:
1) Could Joe Thuney be moved to LT?
2) Tendering Gordon could be a signal that Patriots know something about his suspension status?
3) John Simon is the new Rob Ninkovich?
#MailDoug
— @gcabreu87
1. No, why would he be?

2. No. That just allowed the Patriots to bring Gordon back at a low cost.

3. The Patriots can only hope Simon is the new Rob Ninkovich. It’s a lot to expect. Ninkovich was a very, very good player for the Patriots.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Is it possible to fill the WR void with a change of position of Burkhead, White or Hollister?
— @luchougolini
No, it is not.

With Rob Gronkowski’s decision still up in the air, is Tight End the top priority at the draft?
— @pereira_report
It’s a top priority whether Gronkowski returns or not.

What do you do with the bad chips that get a ton of bugs? #?maildoug
— @JCJurcz
Chuck ’em. We rarely finish any of the food we try for Doug’s Buds.

Thoughts on hot dog water?
— @DirtyWaterBuzz
What? Gross. Against it.

Dream doug’s buds guest?
— @zacxwolf?
That’s a really good question. Maybe Tom Hanks? Will Forte? Scott Aukerman? Ken Griffey Jr.? Adam Scott? John Stamos? That would be a two-hour episode about The Beach Boys and Disney Parks.

I’ll go with Hanks.

Whose an “under-the-radar” free agent you think might fit with the Patriots?
— @KrugerSpraynard
Maybe former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Matt Longacre?

Hi Doug who do you think is gonna be the player that gets the most improvement for next season?
— @ASarmiento98
The Patriots better hope it’s Braxton Berrios and Phillip Dorsett with the way their wide receiver depth chart is stacking up.

My guesses would be Sony Michel and Duke Dawson.

What do you see as the BIGGEST need to fill this year?
— @RommelRoo
Wide receiver.

Where is Jamie Collins?
— @NEPatFanNH
Probably in Mississippi.

What players or what positions do you think the Patriots will target in the draft?
— @SkinnyDiva
Most of them, since they have 12 picks.

Hi Doug,

I love you?
— @stevemac79
Thank you.

Favorite and least favorite type of cheese?

My favorite – Pepperjack
Least Favorite – Swiss
— @ShortDolphin
Favorite: Either a sharp cheddar or parmesan
Least favorite: American

How are you doing lately, Doug?
— @proudblackmatt
I’m good. I think free agency has driven me a bit loopy, however.

hi doug how are the patriots going to field a team without any wide receivers. why does belichick the gm hate belichick the coach. i’ll take my answer on the phone
— @PP_Rich_Hill
This is too real.

Would it be completely unreasonable to think we could trade for A.J Green?
— @94SagarP
There are absolutely no indications that Green is even on the trade block. Plus, the Patriots don’t have the cap room to acquire a player like Green right now.

Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images

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