June 1, 2006 is an important date for veterans with accrued signing bonus money in their contracts. As part of the CBA, teams that release players on June 1st or later, are allowed to spread the signing bonus cap charges to the following season. With the added incentive to unload overpriced veterans in order to free up cap space for the upcoming season, there has typically been a June purge of talent in seasons past.
This year, most of the blood has already been shed. Agents have worked with teams to arrange earlier triggers for roster cuts. Those triggers are typically set as a roster bonus with a due date before the NFL Draft. This allows players with contracts deemed too expensive for their current club, the opportunity to find a new employer. The teams that release those veterans are forced to address their roster earlier, many times by finding new talent in the Draft.
The Patriots faced some tough decisions with players on their roster headed toward free agency in March. Rather than overpaying players, the team took a slower, more methodical approach to the process. Free agents were allowed to test the market while veterans with large roster bonuses or deemed overpaid were released. Free agents Adam Vinatieri, David Givens and Christian Fauria moved on to new deals with new clubs. Aging or injury plagued veterans with large cap numbers like Willie McGinest, Chad Brown, Tyrone Poole and Duane Starks were released already.
Here is a list of the moves made by the Patriots so far:
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WR Michael McGrew; OL Gene Mruczkowski; DL Santonio Thomas; OL Billy Yates.
WR Troy Brown; WR Bam Childress; LB Don Davis; FB Heath Evans; CB Randall Gay; DB Artrell Hawkins; OG Stephen Neal; CB Hank Poteat; CB Chad Scott; S Guss Scott; OL Ross Tucker.
WR Reche Caldwell; LB Barry Gardner; PK Martin Gramatica; S Tebucky Jones; S Mel Mitchell; CB Eric Warfield.
OT Tom Ashworth; LB Chad Brown; LB Matt Chatham; WR Andre' Davis; WR Tim Dwight; TE Christian Fauria; QB Doug Flutie; WR David Givens; WR Cedric James; LB Willie McGinest; CB Tyrone Poole; CB Duane Starks; S Michael Stone; PK Adam Vinatieri.
With the start of the team's mandatory minicamp nearly two weeks away (June 13, 14) the Patriots are not expected to make any significant moves tomorrow. Although the possibility exists that the team may part ways with a veteran or two, most of those on the roster with large cap numbers have recently redone their contracts, thereby reducing the need to make roster cuts to create cap space.
The Patriots still have a sizable amount of cap space available to them to add a player or two to their roster. Barring any unexpected cuts by teams tomorrow, the list of free agents available is fairly limited in terms of impact players. Linebacker, veteran quarterback, cornerback and possibly receiver are the team's biggest needs at this time.
Here are the best players currently available in free agency:
Victor Riley (OT)
Brad Hopkins (LT)
Lance Legree (DE)
Gary Walker (DT in 4-3)
Carl Powell (DT)
Chris Claiborne (WLB)
Jamie Sharper (WLB/SLB)
Tommy Polley (WLB)
Chad Brown (SLB/WLB)
Peter Boulware (SLB)
Junior Seau (WLB, SLB)
DeLawrence Grant (SLB)
Nate Wayne (WLB)