Patriots' Top Contracts to Consider Cutting Ahead of NFL Free Agency

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IFebruary 8, 2021

Patriots' Top Contracts to Consider Cutting Ahead of NFL Free Agency

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots enter the offseason with a lot of available cap space. But they also have a lot of decisions they need to make, and there are potentially a lot of moves on the horizon after their 11-year streak of reaching the playoffs ended in 2020.

    According to Over the Cap, the Patriots are projected to have $63 million of cap space (assuming a salary cap of $180 million, which hasn't been set yet), so they have plenty of flexibility to make additions to their roster via free agency. However, if New England wants to spend a lot to bring in some top players, that available cap space could quickly start to drop.

    So, perhaps the Pats will want to clear even more cap space with some moves ahead of free agency. Then, they could potentially bring in even more players to try to quickly turn things around in 2021 and possibly avoid a total rebuild for the franchise.

    Here's a look at several players who New England could potentially consider cutting this offseason.

Julian Edelman, WR

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Julian Edelman will be 35 when the start of the 2021 season arrives, and it's unclear how long the veteran wide receiver may continue to keep playing. He's been a key member of some successful Patriots teams over the years, but it doesn't change the fact that he's getting older.

    This past season, Edelman was limited to six games because of injuries. He had 21 receptions for 315 yards, but most of that production came in a Week 2 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks (eight catches for 179 yards). He's now set to bring a cap hit of $6.1 million in 2021, the final year of his contract with New England.

    The Patriots have some solid young receivers on their roster, and it's likely they're going to be looking to add a top playmaker this offseason, giving their quarterback (whomever that may be) a reliable target to throw to. Will there be room for Edelman in this mix, or could New England be better off clearing the cap space now and utilizing it to add through free agency?

    That's a decision the Patriots will have to make, but perhaps releasing Edelman will be something they consider. Or maybe that will be dictated by the objectives that New England has when free agency and the draft get closer.

Marcus Cannon, OT

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Marcus Cannon was one of eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season, which was played amid the coronavirus pandemic. The veteran tackle will be 33 when the 2021 campaign arrives, and he's set to bring a cap hit of $9.6 million, the most of any New England offensive linemen.

    If Cannon can still play at a high level (like he did for much of his first nine seasons), then it might make sense for the Pats to immediately plug him back into their starting lineup. But it's been a while since Cannon played, and New England is in a much different place as a team than it was the last time he took the field.

    The Patriots may look to bring back guard Joe Thuney, who is one of the top offensive linemen set to be available in free agency. That could take a decent bit of money for them to do, and perhaps that will have them looking to clear some cap space on the offensive line.

    This may be one of the unlikelier options for New England, but releasing Cannon would achieve that objective. So, perhaps it's something the Patriots consider as the offseason begins to unfold.

Brandon Bolden, RB

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The Patriots have a crowded backfield picture heading into the offseason. Sony Michel and Damien Harris are still under contract and will be back in 2021. James White and Rex Burkhead are both free agents, so it's unclear whether either (or both) will be returning to New England next season.

    Then, there's Brandon Bolden, who was one of the eight Patriots players to opt out of the 2020 season. He would be a free agent as well this offseason, but that's no longer the case, as he gets an extra year following his decision not to play amid the pandemic.

    Bolden is 32, and he's mostly played on specials teams in recent years. He's set to make a little more than $1 million in 2021, and while that's not a lot, New England may need the roster space and won't want to carry five running backs (if it brings back both White and Burkhead).

    This isn't a huge cap saver, but every little bit could end up counting for the Pats this offseason. If Bolden isn't going to have a major role on the team in 2021, then it may make sense for them to cut ties with him now and save a bit of cap space.