Last week we outlined how the Patriots got themselves into a salary cap crunch, as Bill Belichick has just over $1 million freed up right now – but fret not.

If cap jail had a prison guard, it’d be Chief Wiggum; escaping is a breeze. So how can the Patriots free up some cash if they want to?

Here are seven ways:

The Patriots used the franchise tag on left guard Joe Thuney, which puts him on the books for $14.8 million this season. Giving him an extension or trading him would help the Patriots find more space under the salary cap. Associated Press/Ron Schwane

1. EXTEND JOE THUNEY

After getting slapped with the franchise tag, Thuney is on the books for $14.8 million next season.

That’s not left guard money, it’s left tackle cash. The franchise tag averages the salaries of the three highest-paid offensive linemen in the league, and as stable as he is, it’s not practical to pay Thuney that kind of dough.

The Patriots said they’re want to negotiate a long-term deal, and doing so certainly would lower that cap hit, but if the two sides can’t agree to terms…

2. TRADE JOE THUNEY

Whether a new deal is struck or not, Thuney can’t take the field Week 1 with the team’s second-highest cap hit. Only Stephon Gilmore is on the books for more (and we’ll get to him later).

With a resume as impressive as his at 27 years old – three Super Bowl starts, zero games missed – Thuney should have a decent market. The only thing working against him is the current contract situation. He’d be a very expensive rental.

3. RESTRUCTURE STEPHON GILMORE

If the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is willing to rework his current deal, the Patriots could save $4.7 million, per OverTheCap.com. Gilmore has two years left on his current deal, with cap hits of $18.7 million and $19.7 million, respectively.

If Belichick decides he needs the money now, a renegotiation could put more on New England’s tab for 2021.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore has two years remaining on his contract at $18.7 million and $19.7 million, respectively. Associated Press/Nick Wass

4. EXTEND STEPHON GILMORE

When Gilmore hit free agency in 2017, Belichick was far from afraid to open his wallet. His $31 million fully guaranteed is second most on any active cornerback contract, and the former Buffalo Bill has proven well worth it.

Still just 29 years old, Gilmore didn’t become the league’s best defensive player by accident. The cornerback has improved every season in Foxborough. Belichick is notorious about not paying for past performance, but there’s still a lot to be excited about when it comes to Gilmore’s future.

5. START CLEANING THE BOTTOM OF THE ROSTER

Stephen Gostkowski was the first, but the Patriots have a few more potential cap casualties hanging around.

They could save $2.1 million by releasing Deatrich Wise, who only saw the field for 23% of the defensive snaps last season. Parting ways with Justin Bethel could also save the Patriots $2 million, and with Matthew Slater returning, the special teams ace’s skillset becomes a bit more redundant.

6. RELEASE MOHAMED SANU

This doesn’t feel like a possibility yet, as Sanu will likely be given a chance to compete whenever training camp rolls around, but the move would free up $6.5 million with no dead cap repercussions.

It’s also worth noting that Sanu’s first impression in Foxborough may not have been entirely fair. In his third game, Sanu’s ankle was injured so badly that it still needed surgery last month. He only missed one week and gutted it out the rest of the way.

Whenever camp rolls around, we’ll see what the veteran really has in the tank.

7. EXTEND JAMES WHITE

Though most don’t have long shelf lives, James White is the type of running back with staying power in the NFL. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, the Patriots could save $1.6 million by extending White.

If White is intent on hitting the open market, 2020 will be a fascinating year for him. He’s caught 159 passes over the last two seasons, but that was as Tom Brady’s safety net.


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