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Where should the Patriots be spending their money this offseason?

Posted by Erik Frenz  February 6, 2014 07:00 AM

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If the Patriots want to know where they should be spending their money this offseason, a good place to start is by seeing where they've already made big investments. One area they have excelled is in spreading the wealth over the whole team, as opposed to tying up a lot of money in one position.

The Patriots are tight against the salary cap, with $5,619,465 in cap space to work with, but they could clear up space with some cap-clearing moves. Here's a look at the positions where the Patriots could spend, and some other positions where they could find some cap relief.



Offense:

patriots_position_breakdown.png

patritos offense chart.pngWhere they can save money: Guard

The Patriots have some big dollars tied up in their two guards, and as a result, they have some big questions ahead of them. Logan Mankins' contract counts for $10.5 million against the cap; The team is not likely to cut him, as it would only result in $2 million in cap relief, but they may still try to restructure his contract.

On the other hand, Dan Connolly will count for $4,083,333, and the Patriots could get back nearly $4 million of that by cutting him. He's in the final year of his deal, so they could also look to give him an ultimatum extension that could give the Patriots some breathing room with the cap while keeping Connolly on the roster.

Where they can spend money: Tight end, wide receiver

With their No. 1 tight end injured and their No. 2 tight end in jail, the Patriots' plans on offense were ruined. They have a chance to right that situation this offseason. Rob Gronkowski's $5.4 million cap hit in 2014 is the 11th-highest in the league, and with a potential $7.5 million more in relief coming from Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots could probably afford to invest a little at tight end.

With $9,226,926 invested at the wide receiver spot, it may not look like that's the right spot to make a big splash, but this is the second straight year where the Patriots' No. 1 target from the previous year is set to become a free agent. Julian Edelman should be the Patriots' top offseason priority, but he is not the kind of receiver the Patriots should spend top dollar to keep.



Defense:

patriots_defense.png

patriots defense chart 2.pngWhere they can save money: Defensive tackle, safety

The Patriots roster features three of the top 21 cap hits at defensive tackle: Vince Wilfork ($11.6 million), Isaac Sopoaga ($3.5 million) and Tommy Kelly ($3 million) are all candidates for either a restructured contract or an outright release. It would be drastic to get rid of all three, but with a total of $15,737,945 in cap space tied up at defensive tackle, there's plenty of money to be freed up with a move or two.

At safety, Devin McCourty is a candidate for a contract extension that could provide some relief this year; He is set to count for $5.115 million against the cap in 2014. In terms of cap casualties, Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson could both be considered candidates. Releasing Gregory would free up $2.25 million in cap space, and releasing Wilson would provide the Patriots $1,166,666 million in relief. Of the two, Wilson is the more likely release, as he's coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. Gregory has been consistently praised by Belichick and by his teammates as one of the smartest players on the team.

Where they can spend money: Cornerback, defensive end, inside linebacker

Currently, cornerback doesn't count for much of a cap hit because Aqib Talib is not on the pay sheet. The Patriots gave cornerback Kyle Arrington a four-year, $16 million deal that counts just $3.625 million against the cap in 2014. Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard are still both on rookie contracts.

The Patriots' cap hit at inside linebacker — a modest $1,151,898 — is due to the fact that they currently only have backups Chris White and Steve Beauharnais under contract for 2014; Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher are both free agents and it would be a shock if Spikes returned to the team.

Fletcher could still be brought back as a backup, but the Patriots may be comfortable with a starting linebacker trio that has Dont'a Hightower taking Spikes' spot at middle linebacker, with Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins playing interchangeably as weakside and strongside linebackers, and acting as the primary duo for nickel packages.

Although the Patriots have $6,297,489 tied up at defensive end, they could still look to supplement starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich with a third defensive end that could take some of the snaps; Jones (1,125) and Ninkovich (1,097) earned more snaps than any other defensive linemen in the NFL last year, according to Football Outsiders. The Patriots were interested in a few defensive ends last offseason, so look for that interest to continue this offseason.




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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »

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