5 easy ways for Patriots to create salary cap space

Ryan Hannable
March 26, 2020 - 6:00 am

Just over a week into free agency, the Patriots are up against it from a salary cap perspective. 

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According to @PatsCap, the team has $1.8 million in cap space, which not only isn’t enough to add players, it isn’t even enough to go into the draft and pay rookies.

This is something that will need to be addressed in the coming days and weeks.

Here are five easy ways for the team to create some extra cap space.

1. Trade/extend Joe Thuney

It was a bit of a surprise when the team placed the franchise tag on him last week since it meant he will count for just under $15 million against the salary cap. The team released a statement saying the hope is to reach a long-term deal, which if it happens would likely cut his cap hit in half saving $7.5 million. Another option is a trade since there were a number of teams interested in him as a free agent. If traded, that would free up the full $14.8 million.

2. Extend Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore appears to be a player the team should be building around for the future and right now his deal expires at the end of the 2021 season. With him not yet being 30 years old, the team could look to sign him to a multi-year extension and spread out his cap hits of $18 million this year and $19 million next year. Extending Gilmore now could save the Patriots money down the road.

3. Extend Dont’a Hightower

The linebacker is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, so why not add a year or two now? This would knock off some of his $12 million cap hit this year. The one question is does he have plans on playing beyond this season, but it seems like having Jerod Mayo as his position coach could excite him enough to stick around a year or two past 30 years old.

4. Extend Jason McCourty

His twin brother Devin signed an extension this offseason, which is really just for two years with void years, so why not extend Jason, who will be a free agent at the end of 2020, a year to spread out his $5.5 million cap hit? The two have said ideally they would always play together and it seems to only make sense at this point that they would retire at the same time.

5. Release/restructure Mohamed Sanu

Right now, Sanu is on the books for $6.5 million, which seems high given his 2019 production. The team could either release him or ask him to take a pay cut, but both of these may be difficult to do given he had ankle surgery last month. With Tom Brady no longer in the picture, releasing him may make sense if the team is able to.

Related: Devin McCourty praises Jarrett Stidham’s maturity