5 Potential New England Patriots Salary Cap Casualties in the 2013 Offseason

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 25, 2013

5 Potential New England Patriots Salary Cap Casualties in the 2013 Offseason

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    Putting together this list for the New England Patriots was difficult.

    Quite simply, they know how to spend their money. They don't get tied down to players who will pose little value to them in future years. It's one of many reasons they've been so successful for a decade-plus.

    Still, there are a handful of albatross contracts for every team. 

    The Patriots are currently positioned with $18.6 million in cap space for the 2013 season (via ESPN), and more important than the players they might release could be the players they might have to watch walk away in free agency.

    They can open up some more money for themselves to lock up the more important players by making these moves.

     

    All salary figures courtesy of Spotrac.

K Stephen Gostkowski

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    2013 Cap Hit: $3,408,120

    Dead Money If Cut: $908,120

    Cap Savings If Cut: $2,500,000

    Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Gostkowski's contract made him the eighth-highest paid kicker in the NFL in 2012, but his 82.9 field goal percentage ranked 17th among kickers to play at least 13 games.

    Gostkowski had the lowest field goal percentage in a full season since 2006, his rookie year. He missed two field goals in the 30- to 39-yard range and four in the 40-49 range. Those are both the highest marks since 2006.

    Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Good kickers are hard to come by. The list of free-agent kickers isn't exactly littered with talent. Of the free-agent kickers this year, only Bengals kicker Josh Brown, Chargers kicker Nick Novak, Seahawks kicker Stephen Hauschka, Browns kicker Phil Dawson and Lions kicker Jason Hansen had a higher percentage than Gostkowski. None are likely to leave their current teams by any path other than retirement (Dawson is 37 and Hansen is 42).

S Steve Gregory

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    2013 Cap Hit: $2,183,333

    Dead Money If Cut: $933,333

    Cap Savings If Cut: $1,250,000

    Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Gregory was the Patriots lowest-rated safety according to ProFootballFocus.com. Some of his most egregious offenses came in coverage, where he allowed 61.7 percent completions and four touchdowns.

    Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: The Patriots had enough problems in the secondary last year that they probably can't afford to let talented players walk away. Gregory played well in spots and was the Patriots' best option in 2012 to the tune of 90.2 percent of the defensive snaps.

CB Ras-I Dowling

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    2013 Cap Hit: $1,446,572

    Dead Money If Cut: $714,382

    Cap Savings If Cut: $732,190

    Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Dowling entered the NFL with an injury history, and he has lived up to that track record. He has played a total of eight games for the Patriots since joining the team as a second-round pick in 2011. 

    There have been some flashes of brilliance and some lapses in performance in a very small sample size for Dowling. He has allowed 10 of 16 passes (62.5 percent) into his coverage to be completed over the past two seasons.

    Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Much like the situation at safety, the Patriots have enough concerns at cornerback that they can't afford to throw away talented players. The Patriots felt he was talented enough to warrant a second-round pick despite injury concerns.

    It will be interesting to see if they still feel that way now that he's played just 25 percent of the total games over the past two years.

TE Daniel Fells

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    2013 Cap Hit: $1,658,333

    Dead Money If Cut: $408,333

    Cap Savings If Cut: $1,250,000

    Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Do the Patriots want to spend $1.25 million on a backup tight end? Fells' contract made him the 26th-highest paid tight end in the league last year. 

    Also, thanks to Sean Glennon, author of "Tom Brady vs. The NFL" for pointing this out:

    @erikfrenz @br_nfl Re: Fells. Consider, too, that the #Patriots control Jake Ballard's rights for 2013.

    — Sean Glennon (@SeanGlennon) January 25, 2013

    Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Not going to lie, this one was a stretch. 

    The Patriots value depth at tight end, and with good reason.

    Their offense runs primarily out of a two-tight end set, and both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski missed time with injuries this season. It's a stretch to call either of them a health risk, since their injuries were more freak accidents than anything else, but the value of having a reliable fallback option may be enough to keep him around.

    Besides, Fells played very well this year as both a run-blocker and a pass-catcher. The Patriots got good value out of Fells because he played a lot due to injuries. In a best-case scenario, though, Fells wouldn't play much.

RB/FB/LB Spencer Larsen

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    2013 Cap Hit: $875,000

    Dead Money If Cut: $125,000

    Cap Savings If Cut: $750,000

    Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: It's hard to be considered a salary cap casualty with such a low salary, but given the relative value of the fullback position, it's easy to see why the Patriots might have a hard time fitting him into the future plans. 

    Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Larsen's versatility is what made him such a commodity in the first place, as he is one of those two-way players Bill Belichick loves so much. He can even line up on special teams. That versatility is so valuable to Belichick because of the ability to fill a number of potential holes that might open up during a season due to injury.

     

    Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.