By Ben Babcock
Current Cap Space:
$23.29 Million – According to Miguel Benzan of patscap.com
-Picked up WR Kenny Britt’s player option. Will be returning for 2018-19 season
-Did not pick up DT Alan Branch’s player option. Will not be returning in 2018-19 season
-Will not be re-signing RB Dion Lewis. Lewis wanted a $6.5 million per year contract, this was too much for New England, having very little cap room. Lewis is a big loss for the Patriots, racking up 860 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns during the 2017 season along with being a versatile slot receiver out of the backfield.
-Release TE Martellus Bennet. Bennet joined late in the 2017 season and didn’t play at all. While one of the better tight ends in the league and has proved to work well in New England’s system, he is on the fence with an injury and possible need for surgery. New England still has four tight ends on the roster and releasing Bennet clears up a little over $6 million in valuable cap space.
-TE Rob Gronkowski still considering retirement, no definitive updates on his decision. If Gronkowksi decides to retire than New England will get a large boost in cap but lose one of the biggest offensive threats in the league. Without Allen or Hollister producing much this season, New England will need to make a huge offensive adjustment if they can’t pick up a viable replacement.Veteran TE Jimmy Graham will be a free agent and is another big bodied TE that could fill in for Gronk very well.
Corner Back- The Patriots secondary struggled all year, giving up the most passing yards per game throughout the first four weeks of the season. With Malcolm Butler likely to leave, New England will be looking to strengthen this position and avoid similar results in 2018.
Defensive Line/Pass Rush- With the loss of Branch, the Patriots are spread very thin on the defensive line. New England only has eight DE/DL’s on the roster currently and none of them are stars. Trey Flowers is easily their strongest pass rusher with 6.5 sacks this past year, but won’t able to do it all alone. Their defensive line wasn’t horrible in terms of getting to the quarterback, but it did hurt them in the super bowl when they weren’t able to get a single sack on Nick Foles and Foles was able to throw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. So you can expect them to focus pas rushers in the free agency and draft.
Offensive Line Depth- With veteran OT Nate Solder possibly gone the Patriots could have a big hole to fill on the O-line. Even if Solder does come back it won’t be for long and the Patriots O-line is still developing with Solder and Shaq Mason as the two solid players up front. Depth is always good to have and is especially important to have a strong O-line. We could very well see New England pick up a lineman or two in the draft this April.