Even though the initial free agency frenzy has passed I still anticipate a good amount of roster moves between today and week one of the NFL season.
The NFL salary cap barely moved at all this year, and as a result a lot of teams do not have much available cap space. While the amount allocate to rookies is lower than it used to be teams still need a cushion for emergencies, such as signing new players to take the place of an injured player.
With that in mind I’m guessing that after June 1 we will see a fair amount of veterans who are currently under contract with other teams become available. Whether it be a running back, a linebacker or some other position, the Patriots should be in good shape to add one of these players.
Why June 1st? If a player is traded or cut before June 1 all the remaining pro-rated bonus is applied to the salary cap of the current season. If that move is made after June 1 then the numbers for the current salary cap remain the same, and the rest of the pro-rated bonus gets accelerated into the following year instead.
As of the first of April half the league had less than $6 million in available cap space, eleven teams had $3.5 million or less to work with, and six had only $2.1 million or less. Here is an abbreviated list of those teams, ranked from the most cap space to the least via Pro Football Talk. Jason La Canfora of NFL.com has this more detailed list, which shows how those cap figures were arrived at for all 32 teams.
Aside from the Pats
presumably hopefully drafting an OLB in the first or second round, I would not be surprised if they also add another linebacker that is currently under contract elsewhere.
The one player on today’s roster that intrigues me is Markell Carter. Even though he spent the entire 2011 season on the Practice Squad the Patriots thought highly enough of him to pay $306,000 last year. While that may not seem like a lot, keep in mind that most practice squad players make $96,000 per year; Carter was making close to the NFL rookie minimum of $375,000. I can’t help but feel that Carter showed something that the coaching staff really liked, and we’ll hopefully see on the field this season.
As for other options to upgrade the roster – the speculation du jour (Matt Forte, Steven Jackson) seems to have shifted from a wide receiver to a running back ever since Brandon Lloyd signed with the Pats and BenJarvus Green Ellis signed with the Bengals – what far too many overlook is the total cost of such an acquisition.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys are fantastic players that would greatly enhance the running back position. But just like the Mike Wallace and Vincent Jackson speculation that preceded these rumors one needs to account for the impact to the salary cap that signing one of these players would have over the next few years. Yes, it is true that if the Patriots really wanted to they could find a way to sign one of these players and fit them under the cap. However, that does not take into account how that would impact the team’s ability to sign other players for the rest of this year, or how it could hamper the team’s ability to sign (or re-sign) players next year and beyond.
Brian Waters had the most positive impact of any player the Patriots added last year and he was not signed until September 4, which was well after the belated start of free agency last year. It would not surprise me in the least if another similar late acquisition is made this year. Even after next week’s draft the team’s roster is far from being set in stone; quite the opposite, it is something fluid in a constant state of change.