It’s not quite the 2021 off-season, but the Patriots will have a golden opportunity coming up to improve their football team heading into 2023 this spring.
Not only does New England currently own eight picks (with the potential to add several more conditional picks) in the upcoming NFL Draft, they also have a solid chunk of change with which to add veteran players in free agency.
The NFL announced Monday following Championship Weekend that teams will have a record $224.8 million in cap space to work with for next season, which is more than $16 million above last year’s cap ceiling.
As of now, the Patriots have $32.6 million in overall cap space for the 2023 season according to Over the Cap, which ranks sixth in the league overall and gives them the most by far of any team in the AFC East (all of whom are projected to be over the cap). The Chicago Bears lead the NFL in cap space by a mile with $91.8 million, for reference.
The outlook looks even better when measuring effective cap space, which accounts for future expenditures (like signing rookie classes from the draft). The Patriots are projected to have $28.4 million in effective cap space, which is about $4 million under the aforementioned overall cap space. But they have less money projected outgoing money than the Houston Texans, which vaults the Patriots into fifth league-wide as far as the actual amount of money they’re free to spend.
That also doesn’t account for money New England can free up by restructuring veteran contracts or shedding salary. For example, parting ways with both Kendrick Bourne and Trent Brown – not saying they should do this – would add more than $16 million to the salary cap fund.
Some of the Patriots’ free money could go to extending some homegrown players (e.g., Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche) or re-signing key veterans (Jakobi Meyers, perhaps?). But even accounting for that, the Patriots can certainly add help along the offensive and defensive lines as well as some veteran depth at cornerback and receiver, two positions that could look quite different in 2023.
Those improvements, combined with an impactful draft and more competent coaching on offense especially, could put the Patriots back in the mix for a playoff spot in the AFC.