Maybe you think DeAndre Hopkins is the piece that will turn the Patriots from playoff wannabes to playoff gonnabes.
Or maybe you’re skeptical of the impact a 31-year-old who’s played in six playoff games in a 10-year-career will actually have.
Regardless of your bent, one thing you shouldn’t really care about? How much the Patriots offer to pay him.
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Right now, the Patriots are flush.
MORE PATRIOTS ANALYSIS
The 2023 salary cap is $224.8 million. Currently, the Patriots have about $209 million in salary cap commitments. That includes about $22 million in dead money, $15 million of which is gobbled up by money left over from the disastrous signings of Jonnu Smith and good-punter-gone-bad Jake Bailey.
So not only are the Patriots sitting on $15 million of cap space, they’re actually using just $185 million on current players, which is 21st in the league. (Active cap spending is here.)
The Patriots are even flusherer next year. They project to have $122 million in cap space (the most in the league by $21 million) with just $127 million committed to 50 players.
Meanwhile, they are currently enjoying the biggest cap cheat code: a decent quarterback on his rookie contract. Mac Jones’ base salary is $2 million this season. If he plays decently the next two years, he’ll be in line for a deal paying him about $30 million. And that’s on the conservative side.
Am I saying the Patriots should throw whatever it takes at Hopkins to convince him to come aboard? Yes. Yes, I am.
Normally, I lean conservative on the spending stuff.
Find me a hellacious deal the Patriots made -- the $27 million paid out to Jonnu Smith over two years, the $22 million to Nelson Agholor, the $10 million guaranteed to Isaiah Wynn last year on his fifth-year option, the $12.25 million in cap space currently committed to Trent Brown -- and I’ll happily use it as a cudgel.
And I’m pretty consistent. I’ve wholly agreed when they pushed away from the table on players like Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson.
Everybody likes when guys get paid what they’ve earned. Nobody likes the irrational lowballing of players because the team either overestimates its replacement plan (see: Tom Brady, Jakobi Meyers) or simply because it knows it can (see: Lawrence Guy, David Andrews, Donta Hightower).
Hopkins, though, is an outlier case. The on-paper wide receiver corps looked fine, but as we saw at minicamp, injuries to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton left the Patriots wafer thin at the position.
LATEST ON PATRIOTS' PURSUIT OF HOPKINS
This is, as we’ve noted, a pivotal year for the Patriots franchise. It is a year to pull out all the stops to ensure the offense can put up a representative effort to reduce the heat on what should be a very good defense. Is it ideal for the Patriots to do a deal that will make Hopkins their highest-paid player with a cap hit that will gobble up almost the entire remaining space (unless the team simply gives him a two-year deal and kicks the dough into next year)? No. Not ideal.
Odell Beckham got $15 million guaranteed from the Ravens with the chance to turn it into $18 million with incentives. Hopkins will likely want to surpass that. And the Patriots shouldn’t think twice.
Sometimes, when you’re in a hole as the Patriots have been with wide receiver spending in recent years, you stop digging.
When it comes to Hopkins, it should be in for a dime, in for a dollar. Lots of dollars.