Patriots Mailbag: How Can New England Create Additional Salary Cap Space?


Jan 31, 2020

Tom Brady came pretty close to going full Brett Favre on Thursday night. You never want to go full Brett Favre.

Brady was clearly trolling when he tweeted out a picture of him walking toward — or was it away from — Gillette Stadium. And clearly that was the point. We’re not supposed to know which way Brady is thinking at this juncture, 47 days from the start of free agency.

There are all sorts of rumors circulating about Brady. That he bought a house in Las Vegas. That his family was visiting a school in Nashville. That he has a house in Connecticut. And no one seems to know what is and isn’t true.

Ultimately, it makes the most sense for Brady to come back to New England. But don’t expect Brady to tip his hand one way or the other until he’s absolutely sure.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

What kind of options do the Patriots have to create cap space this off-season in terms of extensions and buy outs? See any surprise cuts? #MailDoug
The Patriots are set to have a little under $30 million in cap room next season. That would only leave them with a little wiggle room if they indeed re-sign Brady.

As far as extensions go, the Patriots could create some significant cap room by extending linebacker Dont’a Hightower ($5.6 million), wide receiver Mohamed Sanu ($4.4M), safety Duron Harmon ($2M) and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, running back James White and center David Andrews (all $1.7M).

If the Patriots would be looking to trade or cut players, then Hightower would save $8.9 million, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon would save $3.8 million, Sanu would save $6.5 million, cornerback Jason McCourty would save $4 million, Harmon would save $4.25 million, kicker Stephen Gostkowski would save $3.9 million and running back Rex Burkhead would save $3 million.

I don’t love speculating on surprise cuts, but those are the cap savings. I think Gostkowski is a particularly interesting one coming off of hip surgery. Drafting a kicker then having him battle it out with Gostkowski in training camp would make a load of sense.

Hi Doug! With O’Brien accumulating the GM job with the Texans, is it (more) likely that Caserio stays? #MailDoug
It’s definitely more likely that Nick Caserio sticks around in New England now. There are no current general manager jobs available. That could change after the draft, but for now, Caserio is sticking around through April barring anything unforeseen.

That’s a good thing for the Patriots. Caserio wears many hats in the Patriots’ organization, and he’d be a tough guy to lose.

It’s pretty unbelievable that Bill O’Brien is one of two head coach/GMs in the NFL. No offense to him, but Bill O’Brien?!

How many Tight Ends do you think New England need? Do you think Bill will focus on the draft not free agency?
At least two. The Patriots ideally will have three tight ends next season, and Matt LaCosse shouldn’t necessarily be a roster lock.

Personally, I’d sign a veteran and draft a tight end. The Patriots need significantly more upside at the position. LaCosse, Ben Watson and Ryan Izzo were not nearly enough in 2019. The Patriots needed to better address the tight end position before Gronkowski’s retirement. They didn’t, and now they have to make up for lost time.

If not New England, where’s Brady playing next year? Also, does Gronk join Dola and Brady if they get the band back together?
My guess would be the Tennessee Titans, but that’s purely speculative. And clearly, they wouldn’t keep Ryan Tannehill in that scenario.

And honestly, I wouldn’t completely rule out Rob Gronkowski returning if Brady comes back. And I know how ridiculous that sounds. I think Brady will need some assurances from the organization to come back to New England. That could include re-signing Danny Amendola or incentivizing Gronkowski to return. Gronkowski said this week he’s only down to 250 pounds and that he could add his weight back on quickly.

Just saying, don’t completely, entirely rule it out.

Let’s go rapid fire.

In SB LIII a veteran coach out-schemed a rookie coach. SB LIV sets a similar coaching matchup, does Kyle flip the script this time?

Yes. I think the San Francisco 49ers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. As an aside, the 49ers have been a fun team to cover this week. They’re all really laid back, nice guys. That includes Jimmy Garoppolo.

How likely is Matt Stafford being the person to next starting QB? #askdoug
Not likely. A lot of chips would have to fall for that to happen, including Gisele Bundchen moving to Detroit.

Think Brady didnt want to be tagged to avoid any potential trade?
I think that probably played a role in that decision.

What are your thoughts on the tight end out of Dayton, Adam Trautman?
I like him. I think the Patriots should too. He’s a big tight end who can block, run and catch. The Patriots needed one of those in 2019.

Do you have more or less time for fun covering Super Bowl week when the Patriots are not in it? #MailDoug
I’d say more fun. It’s certainly less stressful. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the Patriots to play in the Super Bowl in the future, but it might adjust how I cover a Super Bowl moving forward.

It’s been great to be in Miami for the week. That being said, some transportation logistics have made absolutely zero sense for us reporters.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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