We've known for about a week now that Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo restructured his deal, but it was impossible to discern the actual cap consequences without knowing the details and structure of the new contract. ESPN Boston's Field Yates has gotten his hands on the numbers, and they are as follows.
The real benefit of this deal come this season, as the Patriots save $4.18 million in cap space for 2015. Mayo receives $4.5 million in guaranteed money from the deal, courtesy of a fully guaranteed $1.5 million base salary in 2015 and a $3 million signing bonus. He can also make an additional $1.8 million in incentives, which will be based on playing time, making the Pro Bowl and team qualifiers. His cap hit of $6.1 million is $4.1 million less than the $10.2 million hit he would've taken under his previous deal. In fact, his entire cap hit for 2015 is now smaller than the base salary ($6.25 million) he was originally scheduled to make this season. According to Patriots cap guru Miguel Benzan (@patscap), the restructure pushes the Patriots cap space to $10.3 million.
While the deal means Mayo will undoubtedly remain a Patriot in 2015, the structure of the contract makes it very unlikely that he remains with the team in 2016. Much like Vince Wilfork's restructure from a year ago, the Patriots have hedged their bets by making the final two years of the deal team options. Mayo is due a guaranteed $4 million bonus on the first day of the 2016 league year if the Pats pick up his option, essentially locking him into a $11.4 million cap hit. Even if Mayo returns to form with a healthy, productive 2015 season, it's hard to imagine the team picking up that option, especially going into an offseason when Nate Solder, Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones could all be free agents.
If (beyond unlikely), the Pats pick up that option for 2016, they'll face a similar decision going into 2017. This time, picking up Mayo's option will incur a $2 million roster bonus on the first day of the 2017 league year. Mayo's cap hit for 2017 would be $11.4 million again.
The deal is a bit of a "best of both worlds" scenario for the Pats. They get to keep Mayo, a team captain and critical player when healthy, for at least another year at a very reasonable price. While many (myself included) had speculated that Mayo would be gone this offseason, keeping him took on a heightened importance when Dont'a Hightower underwent offseason shoulder surgery, putting his early season availability into question. Cutting or trading Mayo also would have been cost-prohibitive thanks to the structure of his previous deal. This restructure allows them to get out from that enormous cap hit while also retaining a player who has been a key contributor when healthy.
While they have the ability to keep Mayo beyond that if they choose (Yates notes that a rising salary cap could make that more palatable), the more likely scenario is that Mayo's mega-deal will come off the books with no cap consequences next year, right when several members of their young core become due for big extensions. This is consistent with the Patriots cap strategy under Belichick, as they've typically been willing to move on from high priced veterans, even when they're still productive (see Richard Seymour), allowing them to redistribute that cap space towards retaining younger players with longer shelf lives. It's always tough to lose long-time heroes like Wilfork, Logan Mankins and, eventually, Mayo, but certainly a reasonable sacrifice if it means paying the necessary price to keep guys like Devin McCourty, Hightower and Jamie Collins in Patriots uniforms for the remainder of their primes.