Coming off their disappointing loss in the AFC Championship Game to the Broncos, the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick are officially On To 2016.
For the most part, the Patriots are in great shape heading into the offseason and the 2016 campaign. The major pieces on defense are all set to return at affordable dollars, quarterback Tom Brady is showing no signs of slowing down, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are still Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and they have no huge free agents to focus considerable resources towards.
But that doesn't mean there isn't business to be done. The offensive line needs to be retooled, although the return of left tackle Nate Solder will definitely help. The offense will need a bigger receiver outside the numbers to serve as a viable option for Brady, and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower are both deserving of long-term extensions. The team will also have to decide if defensive end Chandler Jones is as equally deserving.
Joel Corry of CBS Sports, who is a former agent in the sport, estimates that the Pats will enter the 2016 season with $4.33 million in cap space, assuming the NFL's salary cap lands at $153.4 million for the year. Depending on the moves they make, Corry lays out a scenario where the team could end up with nearly $20 million in cap space to work with this offseason:
Declining the option on [Jerod] Mayo would create $7 million of cap space. Letting [Brandon] LaFell go would free up another $2.65 million of cap room. Finding a new tight end to pair with Gronkowski would net $2.05 million of cap room if [Scott] Chandler is released. The Patriots could pick up an additional $2.5 million under the cap by getting [Danny] Amendola to a more manageable cap number from his $6,804,166 figure...
The final piece to Corry's puzzle would be to cut swing tackle Marcus Cannon, which would free up $3.6 million in cap space and cause Pats fans the world over to cartwheel down the streets.
There'll be plenty to chew over in the coming weeks and months, and a majority of the decisions will come regarding players signed on for 2016. Will Brandon LaFell return? Will Scott Chandler? Mayo? Cannon? It's always difficult to project what Belichick will do because we have a track record 16-years long of him going off the grid to retool his team in any given year. How the moves shake out this year will be interesting to say the least.
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