New England Patriots face some tough cap decisions in 2022

New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Looking ahead a few weeks, the New England Patriots, a likely one-and-done playoff team and head honcho, Bill Belichick will have some tough cap decisions awaiting them prior to the 2022 NFL season.

The team reshaped itself through free agency and the 2021 NFL draft with good showings in each. Yet, to be a Super Bowl competitive team, lots more work is necessary.

Let’s take a look at some players who may not be with the Patriots after the 2021 season ends or who may have to take salary cuts to remain or be released or traded.

New England Patriots possible cap casualties in 2022

Two important players, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty have massive cap hits in 2021 and will be free agents in 2022. How the team handles their situations will be important.

Hightower had a cap hit in 2021 of nearly $12.4M and McCourty about $11M. That’s big money and it is unlikely that absent a significant reduction in salary either will be with the team in 2022.

That cap space could be used elsewhere to shore up other spots on the team. The best outcome would be for each to agree to a much-reduced salary. We’ll see what happens there.

Other players if cut by the team could save cap dollars for free agents, as well. Releasing cornerback Jonathan Jones, who only played six games this season could save about $6M on the cap.

Henry Anderson‘s release could save about $2.5M on the cap. He only played 4 games in 2021 and rookie Christian Barmore is a keeper as is free agent pick-up Daniel Ekuale.

Cutting defensive tackle Lawrence Guy would save about $2.5M. N’Keal Harry’s release would save about $1.2M. Joejuan Williams’ release would save about $1.4M.

Others whose release would add to cap savings include Anfernee Jennings, who’d save about $750,000; Devin Asiasi who’d save almost $750,000; Dalton Keene who’d save about $750,000; and, Jahlani Tavai who’d save about $1M.

Others who have contributed little and could further augment the cap are Jarrett Stidham, who’d save about $900,000; Yodney Cajuste, who’d save about $900,000; Byron Cowart who’d save almost $1M; and, Justin Herron who’d save about $850,000.

Of all the players listed, only Hightower and McCourty (both on significantly reduced salaries), and Jonathan Jones merit being retained by the club. All the others are eminently replaceable.

Other players like Chase Winovich (third-round pick) and Josh Uche (second-round pick) are or should be on the bubble since each has disappointed, especially based upon their high draft pick status.

New England Patriots tough decisions in the future

What all these cap numbers add up to is one significant point, the New England Patriots can free up significant cap space by releasing players who are either aging and won’t accept lower salaries, have been injured, or who have just not been productive.

Of all the players mentioned, only Dont’a Hightower, who’ll be entering his age 32 season, and Devin McCourty, who’ll be entering his age 35 season, and Jonathan Jones would be missed.

Retaining Hightower and McCourty at significantly reduced contracts would be a plus. They are both leaders and popular players. Losing them would be difficult.

Yet, if they were both to leave a massive amount of cap space would become available and the team could make up for the losses.

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Jones is also a valuable player when on the field and should the Patriots foolishly let J.C, Jackson leave in free agency, his presence would be significantly more important.

Other than those players, the team received little production from the other players noted, so it has little to lose and a significant amount of cap space to gain by cutting ties with most if not all of them.

If any of the above-mentioned players were to leave, the team would certainly be able to replace their production in the draft, free agency, or in undrafted free agency.

These decisions are tough for any team to have to make but in the world of professional football, cost-effectiveness is critically important if the team wants to compete for the highest prizes.