Patriots Cap Redistribution
A poster over at PatsFan.com has an interesting table that describes how much of the unadjusted salary cap that each team spends on each coaching group. The Patriots spend significantly above the league average on the quarterbacks, and linebackers, while spending significantly below league average for the offensive line and wide receivers. They spend about the league average for running backs, defensive line, tight ends, and the secondary.
The recent long term extension for center Dan Koppen is going to bump up the Patriots spending for their offensive line, and I think it reflects a change in the value that the Patriots are applying to the line. As I see it positions can be cheap and good if players are still on their rookie contracts and outperforming them. The Patriots have used young players at discounted prices on the offensive line to be able to shift resources to other positions. I think that this is changing. First contracts are cheap contracts even for first round picks if they perform to the level that is expected of them when they were drafted. Richard Seymour for instance was a bargain at $5 million/year in the last year of his rookie deal.
I believe that the Patriots are rotating the units of mid-career veterans versus the reclamation and rookie units as compared to their previous practices.
All following cap information from Miguel's Cap Page.
Right now the Patriots offensive line has 60% of the players on expensive mid-career contracts (Light, Neal and Koppen). Mankins has a couple more years on his rookie contract before the Patriots need to think about resigning him, and the revolving door at right tackle (Kaczur, Britt, O'Callahan) have all their rights held cheaply by the Patriots for at least two more seasons after this. This is in stark contrast to the 2004, 2005 Patriots O-line where the only midcareer lineman was Matt Light.
The area that the Patriots seem to be saving money this year compared to previous years is the secondary. The only midcareer high salary player is safety Rodney Harrison. Two years ago the Patriots had high salaries for Harrison, Law and Poole.
Running back looks to be a position where the Patriots will be going cheaper next season or at the most the season after next as Corey Dillon looks to be replaced by the cheaper Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk will be entering the big money years of his current contract while hitting the latter end of his career.
Wide Receiver is a position that the Patriots have kept pretty cheap with Branch and Givens being the primary receivers last season on their rookie/RFA contracts, while this year, it is a hodgepodge of rookie contracts and near vet min deals. I don't see this changing, although the Patriots have demonstrated desire to spend big money at the position with their last offer to Branch and their attempt to sign Derrick Mason in the 2004-2005 offseason.
Defensive line has been a comparatively cheap position, but the position looks to be getting extraordinarily expensive. Seymour and Jarvis Green are both on their second contracts, with Green as the jack of all trades back-up having the fourth highest current cap figure on the team. Wilfork and Warren have both outperformed their rookie deals, and will be high priorities to resign next year.
Linebackers will never be cheap for the Patriots.
So I see resources that had been flowing from the offensive line profit center towards the secondary flipping around this year and next year. Wide receivers and tight ends seem to be a position that the Patriots are happy with rookie contract players, while running backs will be a cheaper category in the future to deal with the expected increase in defensive line spending.