Morning sports update: NFL expert explained why the Patriots are ‘ready to spend’

"I know this team was down last year, but I expect them to look a lot different by the time we get to the first wave of free agency."

Bill Belichick and the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. –Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

The Bruins lost to Zdeno Chara and the Capitals in a shootout on Wednesday. Boston will get a chance to avenge the defeat on Friday at 7 p.m. in yet another matchup with Washington.

Tonight, the Celtics face the Raptors at 7 p.m.

Also, Jackie Bradley Jr. has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth $24 million with the Brewers. Bradley, 30, was a supplemental first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2011, and has played all of his Major League career to this point with Boston.

Field Yates on the Patriots’ potential: After going 7-9 and suffering a losing season for the first time since 2000, Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be aiming to rebound in 2021. The process starts with having an effective offseason.

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A major component of the current NFL environment is the expected salary cap number for 2021. For the first time since 2011 (and just the second time since the cap was introduced in 1994),  the cap is projected to be lower than it was a year ago.

The result will be teams having less flexibility, and those with less cap space potentially having to make more roster cuts than usual.

“Teams right now, they’re pulling their purse strings real tight trying to get those rosters in order,” noted ESPN’s Dianna Russini on “Get Up!” during a Thursday morning segment. Russini added that a few teams, such as the Saint and Falcons, could be in “a lot of trouble” in trying to keep all of their important players.

But for teams like the Patriots, who enter the offseason with an abundance of cap space, the circumstances create potential opportunity.

Asked which teams might benefit from the unusual nature of the offseason, ESPN NFL insider Field Yates cited the Patriots.

“Look at teams like, for example, the Patriots who are flush with capital this offseason in terms of cap space,” said Yates. “This is a team that could have $60-plus million in cap space if they do nothing. That number could balloon if they make a couple of cuts on their own.”

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Yates thinks Belichick will be aggressive in upgrading New England’s roster.

“Do you think Bill Belichick wants to go 7-9 again next year? We know the answer to that question,” Yates explained. “We’ll talk about the quarterback solution the Patriots have to figure out at some point this offseason, but when you’ve got teams that are effectively sitting out in free agency — you’ve gone from let’s say 32 to 24 teams that are actually spending, and the Patriots have a stack of cash — I know this team was down last year, but I expect them to look a lot different by the time we get to the first wave of free agency.

“Bill Belichick is ready to spend,” Yates concluded.

NFL free agency begins on March 17.

Trivia: Which member of the 1985-1986 Celtics also won a title with the Bulls more than a decade later?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: He was originally drafted by Golden State.

More from Boston.com:

How a Kevin Garnett voicemail helped Jaylen Brown:

Kieron Pollard’s elite day: The West Indies batsman became just the third person ever in international cricket to score six sixes in one over. The performance helped achieve a win over Sri Lanka.

On this day: In 1993, Jim Valvano made his famous speech at the ESPY awards.

Daily highlight: Scott Holzwasser of Northeastern pulled off a wildly impressive pop-up slide, avoiding the tag.

Trivia answer: Robert Parish

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