How Patriots Can Free Up Cap Space To Sign Top 2020 NFL Draft Pick


May 12, 2020

The New England Patriots have made quick work out of locking up their 2020 NFL Draft class to rookie contracts, but one player remains unsigned.

The Patriots have yet to sign their top pick, second-round safety Kyle Dugger, because they can’t. New England doesn’t have enough cap space available to sign Dugger, so it will first need to create some.

As Miguel Benzan of Pats Cap notes, the Patriots have just $640,545 in cap room, and they’ll seemingly need to open up at least $264,346 to sign Dugger. That’s a relatively small amount. New England will need to free up even more cap space before the 2020 season in order to make necessary inevitable moves. So, they might as well open up a large chunk now.

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Here are some ways the Patriots can open cap room to sign Dugger and proceed moving forward:

— Extend Joe Thuney. This is the simplest way to free up a massive amount of cap space. Thuney currently has a cap hit of $14.781 million for the 2020 season. The Patriots could open up over $10 million through an extension, per The franchise could open up the entire $14 million if it traded Thuney.

The Patriots could also free up more than $1 million by extending running back James White, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy or defensive tackle Adam Butler.

They could free up even more money by extending cornerback Stephon Gilmore, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu or right guard Shaq Mason.

— If the Patriots aren’t looking to tack on additional years, they could restructure the contracts of Mason, Gilmore, wide receiver Julian Edelman or offensive tackle Marcus Cannon by converting base salary into a prorated signing bonus.

Doing so would free up between $1.5 million and $4 million worth of room.

— If New England was looking to move a player off of its roster, it could also free up significant salary-cap space.

We’re not advocating any of these moves, but the Patriots could open up significant cap room by cutting or trading Gilmore ($11 million, trade), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (over $9 million, cut or trade), Cannon (over $6 million, cut or trade), Mason (over $5 million, trade), Sanu (over $5.5 million, cut or trade), safety Patrick Chung (over $2.5 million, cut or trade), running back Rex Burkhead (over $2 million, cut or trade), defensive end Deatrich Wise (over $1 million) or guard Jermaine Eluemunor (over $1 million, cut or trade).

In the case of Gilmore, Mason, Cannon and Chung, that would have to wait until or be declared as a post-June 1 move.

We were slightly surprised the Patriots signed Eluemunor as a restricted free agent in the first place. Perhaps they could cut bait now after drafting three interior offensive linemen just to sign Dugger. There’s no real rush to finish signing their draft picks, however. New England typically doesn’t sign its entire draft class until June.

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Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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