According to Spotrac.com, the Patriots 2012 cap hit is at $106,632,966, which takes into account $94,491,221 of active contracts (base salaries and bonuses), $18,801,745 in dead money and $6,660,000 in cap rollover. With this year's salary cap at $120.6 million, this means the Patriots should carry over about $14 million in cap space next year.
NYJetscap.com, which projects future cap hits for all AFC east teams, projects the Patriots coming in at about $100 million against the cap in 2013. Considering the projected 2013 salary cap of $120.9 (per ESPN) and the possible $14 million the Pats can carry over into 2013, the Patriots should sit pretty comfortably at about $35 million under the cap.
The Pats should have the cap space to keep their team among the most talented in the NFL in 2013.
Let’s fast forward to the 2013 offseason and look at some of the most important free agents that the Patriots will need to consider re-signing.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all contract information is from Spotrac.com.
Kyle Arrington is not having a good season.
As Bleacher Report’s Dan Hope points out, opposing quarterbacks have a near-perfect passer rating of 155.8 against Arrington—the league’s worst among cornerbacks.
It seems the Patriots have squeezed as much production as possible out of the former undrafted free agent.
Maybe they keep him in Foxborough for depth, but with the emergence of Alfonzo Dennard and the recent trade acquisition of the undeniably talented Aquib Talib, 2012 might be Arrington’s last season in a Patriots jersey.
However it goes down, Arrington's future in New England shouldn't affect the team's cap space much.
After shipping over a fourth round draft pick to the Bucs, the Patriots essentially received a seven-game rental of the talented—but troubled—cornerback Aquib Talib.
If Talib can pull his stuff together off the field and perform at a high level on the field, Bill Belichick may opt to extend him after this season.
In this pass-happy league, it's imperative to have a solid cover corner.
If Talib is that guy, the Pats may just have to pay him the big bucks to stick around, which would likely be something like $8 million per year over about five years. That type of contract would fall in line with the contracts of similarly talented cornerbacks like Jonathan Joseph and Brandon Flowers.
Prior to a hand injury that sidelined him for three games, Julian Edelman was on pace for about 53 receptions, 790 yards and five touchdowns—which would be his best receiving season of his career.
He’s a quick receiver who knows the offense as well as any player on the team, and he also has been a solid punt returner in recent seasons.
Edelman epitomizes the versatility that Bill Belichick covets and for that reason he’ll be around in 2013 and beyond.
He’s a good player, but given his limited production as a wide receiver, they won’t have to pay him much for him to stick around.
Patrick Chung has missed 12 games over the last two-and-a-half seasons due to injury.
While he has flashed elite play at times, in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league it almost makes sense to let Chung walk after this season, especially with talented rookie safety Tavon Wilson performing well (three interceptions, five pass breakups).
Former Patriots safety, Rodney Harrison, recently shared his thoughts on Chung's career (per CBSBoston), saying:
To be honest, it's three going on four years now. He should have developed into one of the top-tier safeties in the league. If you think about the top safeties right now, you don't think of Patrick Chung... If [the Patriots] are willing to spend [between $6 million and $8 million] a year on a safety, if you haven’t been out there, and you’re not what they think you should be ...you’re not going to get it. They’ll go out and get somebody else. That’s the harsh reality.
While Harrison's view makes sense, on the other hand Chung knows the defense well, is still young at just 25 years old and should come relatively cheap given his injury history and struggles in pass coverage this season.
Perhaps the Patriots will extend him long-term or, being that Chung would be a restricted free agent, perhaps they'll opt to tender him with the possibility of getting another "prove it" year out of him or receiving a high draft pick for him should another team match the tender.
There are a few ways Chung’s future in New England could go down, but with eight games left, it's just too early to tell.
A contract extension for Danny Woodhead seems like a sure thing from this vantage point.
Sure, the Pats have a similar and perhaps more talented back in Shane Vereen, but no one on the roster is as clutch as Woodhead is on third down.
Time and time again we’ve seen Woodhead make big plays on third down, whether it’s on the ground or in the passing game.
Woodhead could probably get some decent dough in the open market, but I don’t see the Pats letting this guy go.
He’s too good.
Something like three years, $7-8 million with $2 million guaranteed could be enough to keep him around.
When Sebastian Vollmer is healthy, he is clearly one of the premier right tackles in all of football.
Now that he seems to be at full health, extending Vollmer seems like an absolute no-brainer for the Patriots.
As part of its Midseason All-Pro Team picks, Pro Football Focus chose Vollmer as their right tackle selection, pointing out that “he’s performed admirably for New England in giving up just one sack, one hit and 12 hurries in eight games.”
Considering other top tackles' contracts, Vollmer might be looking at something along the lines of a five year/$40 million contract extension.
He won’t come cheap, but good right tackles are hard to find.
If there’s one thing that the Julian Edelman-for-Wes Welker experiment proved, it’s that Edelman—who has performed well—is not an adequate replacement for the four-time Pro Bowler.
New England’s offense is at its best when Welker is the focal point. In order to maintain offensive dominance, it would behoove the Patriots to keep Wes around for as long as possible.
After receiving a hefty $10 million payday for one year’s worth of work in the form of the franchise tag, Welker’s people may not be asking for quite as much as they were this past offseason.
The Pats are going to have to pay Welker, but it shouldn’t break the bank the way it would have had they given him a multi-year deal in 2012.
Something like Reggie Wayne's recent contract of $17.5 million over three years with $7.5 million guaranteed seems reasonable at this point.
He might command a bit more, but let’s face it, Welker is worth every cent.