A certain notion emerged today, the first in the aftermath of perhaps the most humbling Patriots defeat in the Bill Belichick era: The loss was good, because it will stun the Patriots into overhauling the team.
That may or may not come true. What we do know is, the loss will give the Patriots the means to overhaul the team if they so choose.
The Patriots received one concrete benefit from losing Sunday. In losing, the Patriots ensured they will have the freedom to spend as much money on unrestricted free agents as they want this offseason. The eight playoff teams remaining will be restrained in how many free agents they are allowed to sign this offseason because of the rules that govern a year with no salary cap.
The teams who made the final eight but lose this weekend will only be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $4.925 million per year or more, plus the number of their unrestricted free agents sign with another team. They can also sign any unrestricted free agents who sign for less than $3.275 million per year.
The four teams that make the conference championship games cannot sign any unrestricted free agents unless one of their unrestricted free agents is signed by another team. In the case of all final eight teams, the unrestricted free agents they sign to replace unrestricted free agents lost cannot exceed the salary of the player lost.