3 salary cap moves for Patriots if they land DeAndre Hopkins

With the New England Patriots rumored to have a visit lined up with All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins, there are potential cap casualties and players who could be on the bubble to make room.

The Patriots have some options to maneuver the cap and bring in the star wideout.

As of now, the Patriots have around $13,287,568 in cap space, according to Miguel Benzan (@PatsCap on Twitter), and it would be enough to fit Hopkins on the roster.

However, each year the Patriots reserve around $13-$18 million in cap space for moves throughout the season, like practice squad salaries, incentives and other player operation costs.

So even if they were to give Hopkins the money he wants, assuming it’s within the $13.2 million per year range, they would likely need to clear up an additional $15 million at some point. This is easier for the Patriots than other teams to do, since they have less on the books for future years, and less roster spots in 2024 and 2025. They also have less dead money than a lot of teams who have been pushing money around to compete.

Even if Hopkins were to sign and they were to structure the contract to have a low Year 1 cap hit, there are a few likely moves that would happen in a ripple effect for the team.

Using Over The Cap’s interactive cap tool, we’re going to work off the assumption that Hopkins could sign a three-year, $39 million contract with $29 million guaranteed and $21 million due at signing.

Hopkins’ cap hits would be $8 million in 2023, $15 million in 2024 and $16 million in 2025, which is more than fine for one of the best NFL receivers of the past decade, even if he will be 33 years old at the end of the contract.

In 2025, the team could save $7 million with a $9 million cap hit for cutting him outright. They would then have Hopkins, Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas under contract for 2024.

To get back down to the $13-$15 million range, the Patriots would have some options after signing Hopkins to this hypothetical deal.

Patriots cut DeVante Parker

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Cutting Parker could save the team $6.2 million and get them back to the operating cost threshold. It is the likely scenario if Hopkins was to sign in New England.

There are many fans who wish to keep both with Parker serving as depth as a Hopkins injury insurance option. To do this, they could opt to extend Parker, but the idea of paying two over 30-year-old X receivers is not ideal just to have a little added depth.

Parker is likely to be cut if Hopkins becomes a Patriot, and if Hopkins is 80 percent of the player we saw in limited reps in 2022, he immediately becomes the best receiver on the team and top-three in the division, even at the tail end of his career.

Patriots extend Hunter Henry

Another possibility is extending Henry to keep Parker on the roster as added depth. Henry is on the final year of his contract, and in 2024, there are no tight ends under contract for the Patriots. While they could extend Henry and still cut Parker, they could opt to keep Parker for depth for one more year by moving some of Henry’s cap hits to future years, locking up the tight end position for a few more years.

Henry has good chemistry with Mac Jones, and he is growing as a vocal leader on the Patriots offense. The Patriots might want to extend him regardless, but there is a little butterfly effect of the Hopkins news that might allow them to do it earlier.

Patriots extend Kendrick Bourne

A less likely option in regards to cap space is extending Kendrick Bourne. Although the Patriots might like to retain the shifty receiver who should have an improved role in 2023, they could wait until the offseason to do so. Bourne is on the final year of his contract, but the Patriots could extend him to keep him with a core that would also include Hopkins, Smith-Schuster and Thornton.

All of this also depends on the growth of Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte, who would both benefit from Hopkins being in the same wide receivers room. If one or both flourish, it is less likely Bourne is extended, but for the sake of cap maneuvering, if the Patriots wish to keep Parker and deal with Henry later, they can extend Bourne to get back to the cap threshold.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire