New England Patriots: 5 Veterans Who Could Be Cap Casualties
The New England Patriots manage the salary cap so well that they rarely find themselves dumping large amounts of salary late in the offseason. However, that doesn't preclude Bill Belichick and company from checking their account balance when weighing different players for inclusion on the initial 53-man roster.
A player such as Danny Amendola may have disappointed some fans last season, but releasing him would actually cost the Patriots $2.25 million, according to OverTheCap.com. Not all Patriots are in such a situation.
Here are five veteran Patriots in tenuous roster situations that would actually save the organization cap space if they were to be released.
After missing a significant portion of the 2013 season, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly was still working his way back to 100 percent this summer. Phil Perry from CSNNE.com reported on Kelly's full arrival to the practice field.
He was a starter -- and a productive one at that -- for the Patriots through five weeks last season before suffering a season-ending ACL tear, but that doesn't mean he'll be given that spot once again when the calendar flips to September.
And Kelly is well aware.
"This is a very hard team to make," he said, "so if you don’t go out there and put it on the line every day, you ain’t going to be here. Simple as that.”
The 6-foot-6, 300-pound defensive lineman had been a limited participant in training camp practices as he recovered from last year's knee surgery. He participated with a rehab group early and then practiced for two days in shoulder pads and shorts as he got closer to full-contact work.
If Kelly isn't at his best—or even if he is—his roster spot is anything but secure. Dominique Easley, when healthy, will likely line up next to Vince Wilfork. Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones, while inconsistent, flashed talent worthy of playing time in 2013.
With Easley and Wilfork recovering from injuries themselves, though, I think Bill Belichick will likely retain his services for another year.
Kelly: $1.2 million in possible savings
Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell
Dan Connolly (61st out of 87 guards) and Ryan Wendell (31st out of 35 centers) were two of the worst starting offensive linemen at their positions, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That—in part, anyway—led the New England Patriots to draft three offensive linemen in the 2014 NFL draft.
However, it may have been a bit premature to pencil Bryan Stork and Jon Halapio into the starting lineup. Wendell is highly valued by Belichick, and Connolly gives New England versatility at the center and guard position that Halapio and Stork can't.
If New England somehow finds itself up against a salary cap wall, one may have to go. Otherwise, look for them to keep the rookies at bay for one more year.
Connolly: $3 million in possible savings
Wendell: $775,000 in possible savings
Will Smith was signed to take over the Andre Carter role—veteran pass-rusher who can spell Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones—but he may find some stiff competition from youngsters on the team. He'll need to beat out Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette and rookie Zach Moore for the featured role.
Smith expressed to Patriots.com what it takes to find a way on to a defense as talent-rich as New England's:
"This is a talented group, but that really doesn't mean anything. We still have to go out and execute and win games. Camp right now is for everyone to come together and work out those kinks and become a good team. This is really just the start of it."
And Smith knows there's work to do.
"I think you always have to prove yourself, each year. It never stops," he said. "Next year, if I'm lucky enough to be playing, I'm still going to have to prove myself again, and continue and continue and continue."
If Smith looks like an upgrade—like Carter in 2011—an older, low-priced veteran will be Belichick's likely choice. If the competition is close, though, a cheaper alternative with future upside, like Buchanan, will be too tempting to pass on.
Smith: $570,000 in possible savings
Ask former New England Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy if you don't think that Belichick won't release a team leader due to monetary issues.
Matthew Slater: $1.6 million in possible savings