The New England Patriots have settled grievances involving the contracts of both Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez this week, which have created a substantial amount of cap space, according to Mike Reiss and Field Yates of ESPN. The club now has $7.79 million in available space, which is a significant jump from earlier this week where their backs were firmly up against the cap wall with less than $500k in wiggle room.
In the case of Brown, who played just one game with New England last season before being cut due to off-field issues including sexual assault allegations that involved sending intimidating text messages to one of his accusers, the Patriots owed the receiver $9 million and, as part of the settlement, are now paying him $5 million, creating $4 million in available credit. As for Hernandez, the Patriots received a $2.25 million credit towards the cap after settling a longstanding compensation grievance involving the late tight end, who was released back in 2013.
The news of this salary cap relief comes off the heels of the Patriots restructuring running back Rex Burkhead's contract earlier this past week to create nearly $1 million in space. After officially signing quarterback Cam Newton following Burkhead's reworked deal, New England's cap situation was back to being extremely tight.
With this newfound space, the Patriots are looking at a pretty deep pool of available veteran free agents, including defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, running back Devonta Freeman, defensive end Everson Griffen, and corner Logan Ryan to name a few. The could also use this room to potentially seek a trade to bolster an area of the roster that is lacking substantial talent or depth (tight end, perhaps?).
No matter how it's used, Bill Belichick now has much more flexibility than he did this time last week, which is a pretty intriguing turn of events.