How Patriots’ Approach To Free Agency Could Be Affected By Approved CBA


March 16, 2020

As a team with limited salary cap room, the New England Patriots should benefit from the NFL Players Association’s vote Saturday to approve the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.

The Patriots currently have just $19.5 million in projected salary-cap space, per the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan. That number does not account for Devin McCourty’s new two-year deal. It assumes Tom Brady either will sign after the start of the new league year on March 18 at 4 p.m. ET or leave for another team, so it automatically gives the QB a $13.5 million dead cap hit before accounting for any new figures that would come with a new deal. If Brady re-signs prior to the start of the new league year, his cap hit will start at $6.75 million, giving the Patriots an additional $6.75 million in cap space, since his dead cap figure would be split between 2020 and 2021.

The new CBA gives the Patriots more wiggle room with contracts, however, because now teams can tack void years onto contracts and no longer have to abide by a 30-percent rule that restricted new contracts from increasing by more than that amount each year.

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Without the 30-percent rule in place, a player can have a much higher cap hit in ensuing years than his respective figure for 2020.

The Patriots still are strapped for cap room but to a slightly lower degree. Even if Brady does sign after March 18 at 4 p.m., the Patriots now can kick that $13.5 million into the future through other means by either using void years or a savvy contract structure.

Essentially, the odds of the Patriots re-signing Brady, or really any of their own or outside free agents, increases because of the approved CBA. They now have more cap flexibility.

And if Brady does leave in free agency, the Patriots would have a solid chunk of cap space to re-sign their own free agents and/or bring aboard new players.

Every NFL team now has this advantage, but it does benefit franchises, with more limited cap space, like the Patriots. The Patriots would be, to some degree, mortgaging the future by signing players to lower cap hits in 2020 and having them account for more money in ensuing years. But the Patriots are in a win-now mode, the salary cap increases every year, and New England essentially can just keep kicking the can down the road with little repercussions.

If the Patriots and Brady can agree to a long-term contract, then expect his future cap hits to be much greater than his 2020 figure. If the Patriots and Brady only agree to a one-year deal, then expect voidable years added on to the deal to create salary-cap space. That’s how they gave Brady a raise while increasing their cap space in 2019.

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