Part I: Patriots are up against the cap earlier than ever – what that means and how they got here

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(Adam Richins for BSJ)

The NFL trade deadline is coming on October 30. During their 3-2 start, there has been -- and will continue to be -- a clamoring for the Patriots to add some more help, whether that be at linebacker, safety or another target for Tom Brady. And that's before they lose anyone else to injury.

But this year — and for, really, the first time in recent memory — that won't be easy. They're virtually out of cap space at $1,772,004. In fact, they'll need to create more room just to finish the season before they entertain adding pieces to their roster puzzle.

In all, after the transition to the new CBA was completed in 2013, at this stage of the season (the second week of October), New England has never had this little space.

Cap space at this time in previous years:

2013: $6,231,332
2014: $9,770,599
2015: $3,776,666
2016: $9,407,367
2017: $4,799,048
Average at this time: $6,797,002 

The Patriots finished each of those seasons with a surplus of cap space, which they were allowed to roll over to the next season:

2013: $4,106,801
2014: $5,258,054
2015: $1,347,882
2016: $5,292,335
2017: $3,012,602
Average surplus: $3,803,535 

So the Patriots have used the following amounts of cap space from now until the end of the season.

2013: $2,124,531
2014: $4,512,505
2015: $2,428,784
2016: $4,115,032
2017: $1,786,446
Average expenses to finish season: $2,993,460 

That is, the least amount of cap space used ($1,786,446) from early October to the end of the regular season is more than the Patriots current cap space ($1,772,004).

Before we even talk about adding players at the deadline, New England will have to create cap space just to meet its cap responsibilities by the end of the season. Why?