Archive for the ‘ salary cap ’ Category

The combination of this being the weekend, nearly three weeks removed from the start of free agency and the draft still nearly four weeks away there’s a definite lull in Pats-related news. Pro Days are just about finished so next up will be pre-draft visits to fuel football discussions. The only problem with that is that they don’t necessarily mean a whole lot; in many cases we don’t find out that a team visited with a player until after the fact, and in other cases (e.g., Vernon Gholston) they can just be a complete smokescreen.


I just went back and breezed through my copy of the Patriots 2011 Media Guide last week, and even though it is out of date at this point it’s an absolute treasure, with a wealth of information for sports geeks like myself. If you’re a diehard Pats fan I highly recommend getting the next issue once it becomes available.


Karen Guregian writes that should Matt Light retire, Nate Solder hopes to earn role as Tom Brady‘s blindside protector and Shalise Manza Young similarly writes that Solder ready to step in if Light steps away. I suppose it makes sense based on where he grew up, but I never knew Solder’s childhood sports hero was not a football player, but a skier. SMY also adds that Patriots’ Nate Solder wants to improve skills, and Miss Karen writes Pats’ Nate Solder set to tackle big role. Solder comes across as a guy that is quite humble, and dedicated to improving his game.


I’m curious to see what will happen with center Dan Koppen. Even though he is coming off an injury it happened very early last year; frankly I thought he would have been a better choice for Green Bay than Jeff Saturday, who will turn 37 before the season starts. My guess is that the Boston College alumnus, who will be 33 in September, has more than enough money put away to live comfortably for the rest of his life; he probably figures it’s not worth it to continue playing at a vet minimum rate. As far as coming back to Foxboro goes, I doubt it will happen. Connolly is the starter now and Koppen is strictly a center; with only 46 roster spots available on game day Bill Belichick prefers backups that can play multiple positions.


The contributors to WEEI’s It Is What It Is blog have recent profiles on several potential Patriots: Texas LB Keenan Robinson; Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu; Georgia CB Brandon Boykin; Montana CB Trumaine Johnson; and USC DE Nick Perry. If you haven’t heard it yet there’s also a good podcast with Christopher Price and Jerry Thornton looking at the offseason moves by the Pats and other NFL teams.


Since the draft is approaching that means it’s time for the semi-annual bashfest of the Patriots draft history under Belichick (training camp roster cuts is the other prime time for this scrutiny). Make no mistake, the Pats have had several choices they would surely like to take a mulligan on, especially between 2006-2009.

But how does anyone reach a meaningful conclusion regarding drafting prowess when there is no point of reference whatsoever? What is the standard for a ‘good pick’ or a ‘bust’? What are the proper expectations in terms of number of elite players, starters, and role players per draft year? Absent of that how do you know what is a good or a bad draft class?

One other part that always leave me shaking my head is the way many cite the percentage of draft busts. Aside from the points above, why a focus on percentage rather than cumulative numbers? If a team trades all its draft picks for one player like Mike Ditka did with the Saints thirteen years ago, does that mean they had a perfect draft? If a team trades down for additional picks then an expected side effect should be more players that don’t make the team than had they stayed put; why the surprise when that happens? The goal is not a success percentage; the goal is a larger total number of productive players. I’ll take the larger number and lower percentage every year, thank you.


It kills me to write this, but I begrudgingly acknowledge that Bill Polian and Eric Mangini are the two best football analysts on television right now.


I had never really been a fan of her work, but Suzy Kolber is much improved in front of the camera. For a long time it seemed like she was just trying too hard and not being herself as the on-location reporter, seemingly being instructed to use the corporate-approved delivery of being overly hyper, always smiling ear to ear, and making every small tidbit sound like earth-shattering news by putting profound emphasis (not exhaling while emphasizing a word, as if squeezing a biscuit after three days of constipation to make a point) on at least one word every sentence. Maybe she got a new guaranteed contract; maybe she said she’d bolt if the suits didn’t let her be herself, I don’t know. But the four-letter network has her moderating roundtables and she’s a natural; much more at ease while delivering useful information at just the right moment, without stepping on the other analyst’s toes.

Now the next step is to let her take over a show like NFL Live full time, and move Trey Wingo elsewhere. To me Wingo and his forced attempt to be humorous would be a much better fit for one of their fluff weekly daytime shows like Around The Horn.


On the subject of suits, who still wears them? Almost all of Corporate America went business casual a long time ago; about the only places suit and ties are still worn are in a courtroom, at a wedding, a funeral, or by a television reporter. Why is that? On one hand I applaud the NFL32 show for having their hosts take off their ties, but it still looks way too forced and contrived.


Credit Where Credit Is Due Department: We miss Miguel and his salary cap updates at; hopefully all is well with him. There is however another excellent source for that information: a guy by the name of Jason has put together cap information on all the AFC East teams at In addition he has thorough articles like this one which details the 2012 rookie pool projections. If you need up-to-date information on the team’s salary cap and player contracts, this is a great resource.






On April 1, 1621 the Pilgrims agreed to a peace treaty with Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags. The accord had a clever enforcement that is similar to what is still utilized today by NATO: if a Wampanoag broke the peace, he would be sent to Plymouth for punishment; if a colonist broke the law, he would likewise be sent to the Wampanoags.


Founder of the German Empire Otto Von Bismarck was born on April 1, 1815.


The first official major league baseball game takes place on April 1, 1876 as Boston beats Philadelphia 6-5.


Abraham Maslov, the psychologist who designed the hierarchy of basic human needs, was born on April 1, 1908.


Michigan football head coach Bo Schembechler was born on April 1, 1929.


Actress and singer Debbie Reynolds was born on April 1, 1932.


Love Story and The Getaway actress Ali McGraw was born on April 1, 1938. What, she's 74?!


Phil Margo, singer for one-hit wonders The Tokens (Lion Sleeps Tonight) was born on April 1, 1942.


Legendary reggae singer Jimmy Cliff was born on April 1, 1948.


On April 1, 1963 ABC aired the premier episode of General Hospital, and NBC televised the premiere episode of its own medical-themed soap opera, The Doctors. General Hospital has won ten Emmy Awards for Best Daytime Drama and is still on today, making it the longest-running television series of all-time. The Doctors, which featured notable actors Ellen Burstyn, Alec Baldwin, Kathleen Turner and Armand Assante among others ran for nearly 30 years before being canceled.


On April 1, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed legislation that banned cigarette advertisements on television and radio. At that point in time tobacco was the single largest product advertised on television. The previous year Congress signed the Cigarette Smoking Act which required the warning label “Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health” on tobacco products after much public pressure as a result of an alarming report by the Surgeon General linking cigarette smoking to low birth weight, along with previous reports connecting cigarette smoking to higher incidences of cancer and heart disease.


Political talk show host Rachel Maddow was born April 1, 1973.


On the day before his own 45th birthday Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father, on April 1, 1984. The singer had resurrected his career and won a Grammy with the song Sexual Healing just a year earlier, but had moved back into his parents home after struggling with debt, depression, and cocaine abuse. His father reportedly was a hard drinking, cross dressing preacher who brutally enforced a strict moral code; the son ironically now found himself under the roof of the same man who caused his demons. The singer’s brother Frankie lived next door; it’s a mystery to me as to why he didn’t move in there instead. In his memoirs Frankie wrote that he held Marvin in his arms in his final minutes and Marvin said “I got what I wanted….I couldn’t do it myself, so I made him do it.”


Major league baseball players go on their first ever strike on April 1, 1972


Wayne Gretzky breaks Bobby Orr‘s NHL record with his 103rd assist on April 1, 1980


The late Sean Taylor was born April 1, 1983


On April 1, 1985 Villanova defeated heavily favored Georgetown 66-64 for the men’s college basketball championship. To this day it is considered one of the biggest upsets in all of sports history.


Players go on strike for the first time in the 75-year history of the NHL on April 1, 1992







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Snapshot of AFC East team’s rosters, moves, and cap space

Here is a look at where each of the AFC East teams currently stand in terms of additions, losses, cap space and draft picks at the end of the first month of the 2012 league year.

Cap space is based on report from Jason LaCanfora of on March 30, and may not include all transactions reported in the media (such as Chad Ochocinco‘s contract restructure, for example). Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also has an edited version of this list; he ranks teams from most cap space to lowest cap space, rather than alphabetically.

The ‘expiring contracts’ below refer to players that were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents as of the start of the new league year on March 13, 2012 unless noted otherwise; those that are crossed out have since either signed with their old club or a new club. Underlined draft picks are compensatory picks, which cannot be traded.




New England Patriots

2011: 13-3; 1st place in AFCE; AFC champions
Cap space: $9,944,664 (12th)
Draft Picks: 1.27, 1.31, 2.48, 2.62, 3.93, 4.126
Off-field: OC Bill O’Brien left (Penn State); TE Kirk Ferentz left (Iowa); Josh McDaniels hired as OC; Chris Simms hired as coaching assistant
Expiring contracts (20): DE Mark Anderson, WR Deion Branch, DE Andre Carter, OL Dan Connolly, DE Shaun Ellis, RB Kevin Faulk, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LB Gary Guyton, S James Ihedigbo, CB Nate Jones, C Dan Koppen, S Brett Lockett, CB Antwaun Molden, LB Niko Koutouvides, WR Matthew Slater, DT Gerard Warren, WR Wes Welker, LB Tracy White; QB Brian Hoyer (RFA); DT Kyle Love (ERFA)
Own free agents lost (2): DE Mark Anderson (Bills), RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Bengals)
Players cut (3): OL Rich Ohrnberger, FB Lousaka Polite, DT Mike Wright
Own free agents re-signed (7): WR Deion Branch, OL Dan Connolly, LB Niko Koutouvides, DT Kyle Love, WR Matthew Slater, LB Tracy White; QB Brian Hoyer (RFA)
Other free agents signed (14): CB Will Allen (Dolphins), CB Marquice Cole (Jets), DL Jonathan Fanene (Bengals), TE Daniel Fells (Broncos), FB Tony Fiammetta, OL Robert Gallery (Seahawks), WR Anthony Gonzalez (Colts), S Steve Gregory (Chargers), DT Marcus Harrison (Bears), FB Spencer Larsen (Broncos), WR Brandon Lloyd (Rams), DE/OLB Trevor Scott (Raiders), WR Donte’ Stallworth (Redskins)
Franchised (1): WR Wes Welker
Primary remaining needs: OLB, DE, S


New Jersey Jets

2011: 8-8, 2nd place in AFCE; missed playoffs
Cap space: $7,692,283 (14th)
Draft Picks: 1.16, 2.47, 3.77, 5.154, 6.187, 6.202, 6.203, 7.232, 7.242, 7.244
Off-field: OC Brian Schottenheimer resigns; Tony Sparano hired as OC
Expiring contracts (16): QB Mark Brunell, WR Plaxico Burress, CB Marquice ColeK Nick Folk, S Jim Leonhard, TE Matthew Mulligan, QB Kevin O’Connell, S Brodney Pool, DT Sione Pouha, CB Donald Strickland, LB Bryan Thomas, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, T Robert Turner, DE/OLB Jamaal Westerman; LB Aaron Maybin (RFA), WR Patrick Turner (RFA)
Own free agents lost (4): CB Marquice Cole (Patriots), TE Matthew Mulligan (Rams), S Brodney Pool (Cowboys), DE/OLB LB Jamaal Westerman (Dolphins)
Players cut (2): S Gerald Alexander, WR Michael Campbell
Players traded away (1): QB Drew Stanton (Colts), and a 7th round pick for a 6th round pick
Own free agents re-signed (4): K Nick Folk, DT Sione Pouha, LB Bryan Thomas; WR Patrick Turner (RFA)
Other free agents signed (3): S LaRon Landry (Redskins), WR Chaz Schilens (Raiders), QB Drew Stanton (Lions)
Players traded for (1): QB Tim Tebow (Broncos) and a 7th round pick, for 4th and 6th round picks
Franchised: none
Primary remaining needs: WR, RT, OLB, S


Miami Dolphins

2011: 6-10, 3rd/4th place in AFCE; missed playoffs
Cap space: $6,470,157 (16th)
Draft Picks: 1.08, 2.42, 3.72, 3.73, 4.103, 5.145, 6.196, 7.215
Off-field: HC Tony Sparano, OC Brian Daboll, DC Mike Nolan fired; Joe Philbin hired as HC; Mike Sherman hired as OC; Kevin Coyle hired as DC
Expiring contracts (17): NT Paul Soliai, DL Kendall Langford, G Vernon Carey, DL Phillip Merling, QB Chad Henne, CB Will Allen, RB Steve Slaton, LB Jason Taylor, ILB Marvin Mitchell, DE/OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis, DE Ryan Baker, T Marc Colombo, QB J.P. Losman; FB Lex Hilliard (RFA), T Lydon Murtha (RFA), LB Austin Spitler (ERFA), TE Jeron Mastrud (ERFA)
Own free agents lost (4): DL Kendall Langford (Rams), QB Chad Henne (Jaguars), CB Will Allen (Patriots), FB Lex Hilliard (Vikings)
Players traded (1): WR Brandon Marshall (Bears), for two 3rd round picks
Players cut (1): S Yeremiah Bell
Own free agents re-signed (8): NT Paul Soliai, DL Phillip Merling, RB Steve Slaton, DE/OLB Ikaika Alama-Francis, DE Ryan Baker, T Lydon Murtha, TE Jeron Mastrud, LB Austin Spitler
Other free agents signed:  CB Richard Marshall (Cardinals), QB David Garrard (Jaguars), DE/OLB Jamaal Westerman (Jets), T Artis Hicks (Browns)
Franchised: none
Primary remaining needs: QB, WR, DE, WLB


Buffalo Bills

2011: 6-10, 3rd/4th place in AFCE; missed playoffs
Cap space: $9,715,709 (13th)
Draft Picks: 1.10, 2.41, 3.71, 4.105, 4.124, 5.144, 5.147, 6.178, 7.217, 7.251
Off-field: none
Expiring contracts (18): T Demetrius Bell, TE Scott Chandler, K Brandon Coutu, RB Tashard Choice, CB Reggie Corner, LB Andra Davis, WR Derek Hagan, RB Bruce Hall, WR Steve Johnson, K Rian LindellWR Ruvell Martin, LB Kirk Morrison, K Dave Rayner, G Chad Rinehart, S Bryan Scott, LB Reggie Torbor, G Kraig Urbik, WR Roscoe Parrish
Own free agents lost (0):
Players cut (1): S Jon Corto
Own free agents re-signed (10): WR Steve Johnson, K Rian Lindell, G Kraig Urbik, G Chad Rinehart, TE Scott Chandler, RB Tashard Choice, WR Derek Hagan, S Bryan Scott, LB Kirk Morrison, WR Ruvell Martin
Other free agents signed (2): DE Mario Williams (Texans), DE Mark Anderson (Patriots)
Franchised: none
Primary remaining needs: LT, CB, OLB






“I think, therefore I am”; French philosopher Rene Descartes was born on March 31, 1596


The Eiffel Tower opened on March 31, 1889


Farm workers advocate Cesar Chavez was born on March 31, 1927


One of the greatest to ever lace them up, Mr. Hockey - Gordie Howe - was born on March 31, 1928


Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931 at the age of 43


Oklahoma! and Partridge Family singer and actress Shirley Jones was born on March 31, 1934


Trumpeter Herb Alpert was born on March 31, 1935


Dr. Kildare, Richard Chamberlain was born on March 31, 1935


Actor Christopher Walken was born on March 31, 1943


Mr. Kotter, Gabe Kaplan was born on March 31, 1945


Oklahoma! premiered on Broadway on March 31, 1943


Mott the Hoople and Bad Company guitar player Mick Ralphs was born on March 31, 1948


Al Gore was born on March 31, 1948


Carla Tortelli from Cheers, aka Rhea Perlman was born on March 31, 1948


AC/DC guitarist Angus Young was born on March 31, 1955


The Dalai Lama began exile on March 31, 1959


Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar for the first time on March 31, 1967, in London.


John Wooden coached his final game on March 31, 1975, winning his 10th championship in twelve years as UCLA defeated Kentucky 92-85.


O’Kelly Isley, singer with the Isley Brothers, dies from a heart atack at age 48 on March 31, 1986


Singer Selena was killed by a fan on March 31, 1995


The Matrix was released on March 31, 1999





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NFL reporter and XM radio host Adam Caplan states that the Patriots are one of five teams interested in DT Amobi Okoye. Okoye was the 10th overall pick of the 2007 draft but never lived up to that draft status. With the Patriots getting away from being strictly a 3-4, two-gap defense it opens up the door to look at players like Okoye who would never have been a consideration just a couple years ago; he’s a bit undersized for that scheme but has enough speed and power where he could be productive in the right scheme. He’s only 25 years old, so under the right conditions he could have a great deal of productive time ahead of him – depending on whether or not he fulfills the Patriots’ commandment of  “football is important to him”,  as Tom Curran points out for CSNNE.  The Bears (who he played for last year) are one of the teams reportedly showing interest; besides the Pats the others are Denver, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.


Another day, another Matt Forte to the Pats rumor; this one started by a column from Rotoworld‘s Evan Silva; he speculates that the Pats will trade a 2nd and 6th round draft pick for Forte. Now I wouldn’t mind seeing Forte run the ball for the Pats, but I just don’t see this happening. The Patriots still have multiple areas on defense that are in need of an upgrade; they’re better off utilizing that 2nd round pick in some form on that side of the ball. Is it a coincidence that this article comes from a fantasy sports site?

I think this preoccupation with improving the Patriots offense – you know, the one that averaged 32 points and 428 yards per game last year – is indeed due to the popularity of fantasy sports as well as video games. Besides, this isn’t baseball, this is the NFL where there is a very real thing called the salary cap. Even if the Patriots did sign Forte, did anybody stop to consider how much it would cost to sign him, and more importantly how much that would restrict the Pats ability to sign or extend other players, both this year and beyond?

I also think the national media tends to not have a close enough pulse on any single team when they formulate an opinion such as this one. I have also seen speculation that the Pats would draft a running back in the first round, for example. The basis of that logic is that the Patriots lost BenJarvus Green-Ellis in free agency, and now the Pats have a gaping hole that they desperately need to fill. But while others play checkers the Patriots play chess: they’re a move or two ahead of these national columnists; they anticipated that loss and addressed that need a year ago when they drafted Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.

This is why when it comes to the coverage of the Patriots (or any other NFL team for that matter) I put far more weight on the opinions of local writers rather than national columnists. People like Christopher Price, Jeff Howe, Greg Bedard, Nick Underhill, Karen Guregian and others are going to know far more about what is going on with the Pats and what they are likely to do than writers like Silva, Peter King, John Clayton, Peter Prisco or Michael Silver ever will. Ricky Doyle of NESN concurs, noting that a deal for the Bears running back is completely unnecessary.


While on the subject of the salary cap, I am definitely looking forward to tonight’s weekly Patriots Fourth and Two broadcast, where Michael Felger and Marc Bertrand will discuss the relevancy of the NFL salary cap. Last time he was on Felger dropped his contrarian sports talk radio schtick and was quite insightful; whether or not he will be the same way on this topic remains to be seen. You can listen in here; the broadcast commences at 7 p.m. ET.


Mike Reiss of espnBoston has his ranking of possible Pats openers, trying to predict who the Patriots will open the 2012 season against. I am going to disagree with Mike on this one: in my opinion the teams he ranks at the top (Broncos, Ravens, 49ers, Texans, Jets) should be flipped around; to me they are the least likely to appear on the Patriots schedule in week one. The reason for that is that since it will have been seven months since a meaningful game was played, the interest level is so high that there is no need to schedule a compelling matchup then. This is a business, and the best business decision would be to set up as many of those games as possible during ratings sweeps, which is usually from the end of October to late November. When the regular season kicks off 32 fan bases have a lot of confidence and high hopes; similar to Thanksgiving Day games they are going to watch whatever is on. The AFCCG rematch and Brady-Manning XIII can wait.


Christopher Price of WEEI has Eleven Under The Radar Prospects For The Patriots To Ponder. For those getting tired of reading about Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning it is a welcome breath of fresh air that digs deeper than the top two dozen NFL draft prospects. Appalachian State WR Brian Quick, Bethune-Cookman DE/OLB Ryan Davis, UMass TE Emil Igwenagu, South Dakota G/T Tom Compton, Presbyterian DB Justin Bethel, Furman CB Ryan Steed, Albion CB Chris Greenwood, Maine S Jerron McMillian and S Trevor Coston, and Merrimack LB Shawn Loiseau are included in his column – although he warns us that Quick may no longer be considered to be under the radar, writing that “there’s plenty of pre-draft buzz around Quick, as his size and senior numbers (71 catches, 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns) mean he likely won’t last past the third round”.


Chris Warner of Patriots Daily Boston Sports Media Watch has his Patriots 2012 Draft Wish List, where he mentions Clemson’s Andre Branch and Syracuse’s Chandler Jones as college defensive ends that could fit in well as outside linebackers with the Pats as first round picks, UConn’s Kendall Reyes as another possibility, and about a dozen others that could fit in well from day two and three from next month’s draft.


Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe writes that it seems there’s a bit of angst in the ranks at NFL meetings, noting that the penalties based on the bounties in New Orleans and the salary cap transgressions by the Redskins and Cowboys have caused a distraction and scrutiny that the NFL would have preferred to avoid. After last year’s contentious CBA negotiations, wasn’t this off-season supposed to be sunshine and rainbows? At the end of the column there is an interesting comment from Roger Goodell about Warren Sapp that gives the implication that the NFL Network has complete autonomy from league offices. How else do you explain the continued employment of Sapp, Michael Irvin, and some of the other ‘expert analysts’ at NFLN.

“I think I would say to NFL Network staff, as well as anybody else, you better be sure of your information before you report it,’’ Goodell said. “I didn’t see his comment, but he’s inaccurate so let’s start with that.’’


Tom Curran has some dry wit gems in his Leftovers from breakfast with Belichick, writing on some of the great questions and answers from the coach at the annual owner’s meeting.


Some obscure American Football League franchise changed their name from the Titans to the Jets on March 28, 1963


16 years later to the day the US had its worst accident at a civilian nuclear power plant, and Three Mile Island became a household word. Coincidence?


Happy 46th birthday to former Princeton quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett


Happy Birthday to Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, who turns 26 today


Bourne Ultimatum star Julia Stiles turns 31


Actor Vince Vaughn turns 42 today


Country legend Reba McEntire turns 57


Dianne Wiest (Edward Scissorhands, Footloose, Bullets Over Broadway) turns 64 today


Ken "The White Shadow" Howard turns 68


Dirk Bogarde, actor in more than 60 films, was born today in 1921




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Pats’ 2012 cap, free agents and potential extra cap space

The first event of any significance in any NFL calendar year is free agency. For any team there are three primary factors: how much room your team has to spend relative to the salary cap; deciding which of your own players with expiring contracts you want to try to retain; and then once free agency officially begins agreeing to terms with players from other organizations that can benefit your team. I’ll take a look at those first two areas to get a base as the start of the 2012 year approaches.



Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently compiled a detailed list of the current salary cap figures for all 32 NFL teams. According to his figures the New England Patriots appear to be in good shape: they have the 8th lowest figure, $101,827,381. The 2011 cap was $120,375,000 and the 2012 cap is projected to be somewhere between $121 and $125 million; it has not yet been officially set.


There are a couple of things to note with those two numbers: first they are not hard cap numbers. Last year teams could borrow up to $3 million from future caps against their 2011 cap figure, and some teams went ahead and did just that to sign all the players that they felt compelled to have on their roster. Similarly this year teams can borrow up to $2 million from future caps if they so desire.


In addition there is a clause in the CBA that allows a team to carry over money they did not spend the previous year. The exact wording is as follows:

A Club may “carry over” Room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice in writing signed by the owner to the NFL no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the start of the new League Year indicating the maximum amount of Room that the Club wishes to carry over. The NFL shall promptly provide a copy of any such notice to the NFLPA. The amount of Room carried over will be adjusted downward based on the final Room available after the year-end reconciliation.


What this basically means is that the Patriots can add the amount they were under the cap in 2011 to their 2012 cap, if they so desire. Reportedly the Pats finished $6,668,877 under the 2011 cap, and could add that to their 2012 figure. Though that doesn’t sound like a whole lot in comparison to over $120 million, that’s still the difference between being able to sign or not sign an elite player, or two or three above-average players.



Another thing to careful about when looking at these numbers in comparison to those of other teams is that they can easily be skewed based on the number of players under contract – or more to the point, the number of the best/highest paid players under contract. I recall a few years ago when the Cardinals entered the year in ‘best cap shape’ with the lowest cap figure of any team; if I’m not mistaken it was the year after their Super Bowl loss. However, they had so many players with expired contracts that they were actually able to do very little in free agency, other than replace a few players that signed elsewhere with new players that were not really an upgrade.


Lastly, keep in mind that teams need to use about $5 million in cap space to sign rookies. Now that doesn’t mean they have to have it available on draft day – rookies usually aren’t signed until just before the start of training camp, so cap space can be created between now and then for those contracts – but it is still something that will need to be included at some point in time.



Patriots Free Agents – Offense

WR Wes Welker – There is no way Welker will not be back with the Patriots next year. If the Pats cannot work out a long term deal before the start of free agency he will be franchised to give the team more time to negotiate. The franchise tag for a wide receiver is about $9.4 million, an amount the Pats can easily afford if they need to for such a vital part of their offense.

WR Deion Branch – Branch knows that he has lost a step and that his best fit is in New England after some unproductive years in Seattle. The team also knows that he has a unique chemistry with Tom Brady that many others cannot approach. I believe he will be brought back to camp with a relatively low one or two year deal.

WR Matthew Slater – Bill Belichick understands the importance of special teams, and Slater is arguably the team’s best special teams player. Expect him to be offered a multi-year deal.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – While Belichick surely likes the fact that he never turns the ball over and rarely loses yardage, I think the writing was on the wall when the Pats drafted not one, but two running backs early a year ago. I expect somebody to offer him substantially more money that what the Pats are willing to pay.

RB Kevin Faulk – Faulk will retire as a Patriot.

C Dan Koppen – A couple years ago the Pats drafted Ted Larsen, and I envisioned Larsen taking over for Koppen at center for the 2012 season; that obviously did not work out. If Koppen returns it will have to be for substantially less money than he made in his last contract (his cap figure was over $5 million last year, fourth highest on the team); I’m not sure if he will be willing to do that. Of course the team’s decision with Koppen is directly related to what happens with …

C/G Dan Connolly – Ideally Connolly is suited to be a Russ-Hochstein type that can fill in at any of the three interior line positions with the team barely skipping a beat when (not if) another offensive lineman inevitably is injured and misses some time due to an injury. The problem is that Connolly has outplayed that role and can command starter’s money. My guess is that the Pats do what they need to do re-sign Connolly and let Koppen either walk, or accept a much lower salary offer. The wild card in all of this is G Brian Waters, who stated that he has not made up his mind if he wants to play in 2012. If Waters does opt to retire then it increases the chances of the Pats bringing both Koppen and Connolly back. Hopefully for the Pats sake Waters lets them know his decision soon, so they can act accordingly.

QB Brian Hoyer – Hoyer is a restricted free agent. I would expect the Pats to tender him at the 2nd round draft pick level; if another team is willing to give up a 2nd for him the Pats would presumably take that.


Patriots Free Agents – Defense

DE Mark Anderson – Anderson helped improve one of the Pats biggest areas of need over the past couple of years, the pass rush. Is he a one-year wonder? Will some other team be willing to pay big bucks bases on his 2011 stats? I’m guessing the Pats will try very hard to bring him back; keep in mind he is much younger than a player like …

DE Andre Carter – Assuming he is fully recovered from his season ending injury I think he wants to return here, and the team wants him back. He doesn’t fit as well in a 3-4, but I think the Pats like the versatility of being able to utilize either a 4-3 or a 3-4 whenever they so desire.

DE Shaun Ellis – Ellis did not perform up to his $4 million contract, and I don’t get the feeling that he is willing to play for $1 million or so, which would be the most the Pats would offer him – if they offer him anything at all.

DT Gerard Warren – Warren is still an effective lineman, in particular against the run. I’m guessing we’ll see something similar to last year where he is signed late, allowing him to not have to go through training camp while at the same time allowing Belichick to get a good look at one other additional player.

LB Tracy White – White, along with Slater was one of the team’s top special teams players; I expect the Pats will re-sign him.

LB Gary Guyton – Guyton was a healthy inactive for about the last nine games, and the only reason he was on the field prior to that was because of injuries to Spikes and Fletcher. He played his way off the team and will not be offered a contract as Bill Belichick has seen what his ceiling is and will find someone else with more upside.

LB Niko Koutovides – a special teamer who may be brought back to camp, but I’m guessing won’t make it onto the week one roster.

CB Nate Jones – Buh-bye

CB Antwaun Molden – Molden may be offered a contract, but I’ll be disappointed if he makes it out of camp and on to the week one roster.

S James Ihedigbo – Prior to being signed last August Ihedigbo’s role with the Jets was strictly on special teams, and it was assumed that would be the same case with the Pats. He was forced onto the field due to injuries (and the unexpected cuts of Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders), and overall did as well as could be expected. Preferably his role would return to being a backup and special teamer, but here’s the thing: while he does well against the run and when called upon to blitz, he is a liability in coverage. Given the current state of the NFL, wouldn’t you prefer you prefer your backup defensive backs to be stronger in pass coverage, as they will be used primarily in nickel and dime sub situations?

DT Kyle Love – Love is an exclusive rights free agent, which basically means that there’s no way he is going anywhere as long as the team wants him back – which they do.

S Brett Lockett – Lockett is also an ERFA, but I sincerely doubt he’ll be on the 2012 roster.




Dead cap money clause: Jets conspiracy or innocent oversight?

One very minor detail of the NFL’s new CBA – a single sentence, 59 pages deep into the document – could have major ramifications on the outcome of the 2011 season.

For the purpose of the salary cap players who were cut prior to the lockout will not count as dead money against this year’s cap.


So what is the big deal?


For the players union that means teams will be spending more real dollars, as opposed to cap numbers which are figures for accounting purposes only. But what this does is give an advantage to teams who cut players under contract during that three-week window between the end of the season and the start of the lockout. Players cut going forward will still have those numbers count against their old team’s salary cap.

This all seems quite arbitrary and inconsistent; it’s completely unprecedented in the NFL’s salary cap era. In addition the message coming out of the NFL’s office when the league opted out of the CBA and went to an uncapped year was that teams should make decisions based on the idea that a new CBA would be worked and that cap rules, regardless of what number the new cap would be, would remain intact. In other words, don’t sign a bunch of players to big signing bonuses and multi year contracts with the idea that you’ll be able to cut them before the end of the contract with no dead cap money ramifications.


Now it appears that was merely a suggestion, with no basis of fact.

However what makes this situation an even bigger deal is the possibility of impropriety. What if only one team knew about this ahead of time? Obviously they could take advantage of that knowledge by cutting several veterans very early in the year, rather than waiting. With no new CBA in place and no free agency on March 1, there was really no need to make the decision at that time.

Is Rex Ryan’s team had plenty of dead money prior to the lockout. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Now it’s not as if no cuts were made by 31 teams and several made by one team; that is not the case. However, the majority of the cuts were either marginal players with no impact to the salary cap (e.g., Pierre Woods), failed physicals (e.g., Chris Baker), or old housecleaning of players that had essentially retired that were on the reserve/failed to report list (e.g., Randall McDaniel).

One of the very few teams that did make early roster cuts was the New York Jets, cutting six players that reportedly had over $8 million in dead cap money between them – not an insignificant amount at all when you consider it’s not uncommon for anybody making over $1 million per year to be a potential cap casualty.


Now it is time for the tinfoil hat conspiracy theory.

While the lockout was on, there was only one fan base that seemed to be adamant that old dead cap money would not count against the new cap – even though that had never been the case since the salary cap began: the New York Jets. The reasoning behind this was allegedly some inside information on the wording of the new CBA. If this were true then where would a Jet fan most likely get that information; maybe from someone in the Jets organization? And if that were the case, where would the Jets have obtained that same information?

Perhaps from the offices of a former fan and former employee who now holds the title of league commissioner?

Now I realize this idea sounds rather fantastic; like I said before, tinfoil hat conspiracy time. But hasn’t Roger Goodell brought this upon himself? His past allegiances are well documented, yet he sees no need to remove himself from controversial decisions involving his former team. The punishment to Sal Alosi for his actions and Mike Westhoff for his comments last season were laughably weak when you compare how he reacts to players violating the Personal Conduct Policy; if anything I thought coaches were held to a higher standard – wasn’t that part of the rationale in the fine to Bill Belichick? In addition Goodell has shown himself to be wildly inconsistent with his decisions, which brings further scrutiny. The Patriots film and they lose a first round draft pick; the Broncos and Jets do the same thing and there are no repercussions. Player X does something he gets a small fine; Player Y does the same thing he gets suspended.

Removing the tinfoil conspiracy hat, at the very least if the two sides wanted clubs to spend more money in 2011 then there should have been a more equitable way to make that happen than giving amnesty to the handful of teams that had already cut players with big cap numbers. If not an error of commission then it’s an error of omission; Goodell should have realized that setting that arbitrary date of March 11 was not the correct decision. A better way to satisfy both sides would have been to add up the total dead cap money of all players cut from February 17 to March 11, divide by 32, and add that amount to each of the 32 NFL team’s 2011 cap. Now it’s fair for everybody involved.


And people like me don’t have an excuse to reach for our tinfoil hats.


In all seriousness, do I think the Jets had some secret information about this clause passed on to them by Goodell? Probably not; besides its being impossible to prove people like Goodell and Woody Johnson are far more interested in money than in wins and losses of their favorite team. But I find it ironic that the commissioner of the league, the man whose rallying cry is the integrity of the game, keeps making decisions that cause fans of the NFL to question that very same subject based on decisions that he makes, and how it seemingly favors his former employer and team he grew up rooting for. A person in his position should not be making such gaffes; if he’s not intelligent enough to avoid doing so he should step aside and let somebody else take over for the good of the game.


Here is a team-by-team look at cuts made between February 18 and March 11 of this year. I would have included what the cap savings would be for everyone involved, but I was unable to locate a reliable source for that information.

Arizona: none
Atlanta: S Eric Coleman, TE Jason Rader
Baltimore: none
Buffalo: LB Pierre Woods, LB Mike Balogun, DE Marcus Stroud
Carolina: none
Chicago: T Kevin Shaffer, DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer
Cincinnati: none
Cleveland: LB Eric Barton, LB David Bowens, T John St. Clair, DT Shaun Rogers, TE Robert Royal, DE Kenyon Coleman
Dallas: none
Denver: TE Daniel Graham, DT Jamal Williams, DT Justin Bannan
Detroit: G Trevor Canfield; CB Eric King, LB Julian Peterson
Green Bay: S Derrick Martin, LB AJ Hawk (re-signed), TE Donald Lee, FB Chuck Webb, G Doug Karczewski
Houston: WR Andre Davis, LB Darnell Bing, LB Isaiah Greenhouse, DT DeMario Pressley, S Eugene Wilson
Indianapolis: S Bob Sanders
Jacksonville: WR Mike Sims-Walker; WR Chris McGaha
Kansas City: none
Miami: RB Deon Anderson, TE Jared Bronson
Minnesota: none
New England: none
New Orleans: RB Marcus Mailei, RB PJ Hill, TE Jeremy Shockey
New York Giants: none
New York Jets: CB Isaiah Trufant, LB Jason Taylor, DT Kris Jenkins, T Damien Woody, DE Vernon Gholston, TE Ben Hartsock
Oakland: none
Philadelphia: none
Pittsburgh: none
San Diego: none
San Francisco: none
Seattle: TE Chris Baker, QB Nate Davis, DE Patrick Kerney, WR Sean Morey
St. Louis: RB Mike Karney, S Oshiomogho Atogwe
Tampa Bay: LB Jon Alston, G Randall McDaniel, G Jason Nerys
Tennessee: none
Washington: RB Clinton Portis, LB Andre Carter, G Derrick Dockery




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