How Benjamin Watson’s release helps the Patriots salary cap now and in the future

(Adam Richins for BSJ)

Most of the questions I received today on Twitter after it was announced the Patriots released Benjamin Watson dealt with the cap consequences of the move.

Watson's total dead money is $686,469. It consists of:
$600,000 -- in signing bonus proration
$85,294 -- one week salary. Watson practiced with the Patriots last week.
$1,175 -- offseason workout bonus. Watson had attended five workout sessions.

The Patriots freed up $1,973,529 in cap space because they are no longer responsible for:
$1,023,529 -- twelve weeks of salary
$300,000 -- 46-man active roster bonuses
$650,000 -- LTBE (Likely to be Earned) incentives

After Watson's release, I now have them with around $3.7 million in cap space. That is more than enough to account for the following current cap responsibilities:

1. Earned NLTBE (Not Likely to Be Earned) 46-man active roster bonuses. These bonuses are the only NTLBE incentives that hit the current year’s cap when earned. As you can see below, the Patriots could lose $793,750 in cap space if the 7 players are active for every game the rest of the year. To illustrate this, since Julian Edelman was not active for any game in 2017, in 2018 the Patriots lost $31,250 in cap space every Tuesday on the NFLPA public salary cap page.

[table id=373 /]

2. The Patriots are certain to place more players on injured reserve before the end of the regular season. Replacing those players will take up cap space. For example, let us presume the Patriots place another player on IR sometime this week and they then fill his spot on the 53-man roster with a rookie. That rookie will have a cap number of $349,118 as it is very likely that his yearly salary will be the minimum of $495,000.

3. If the Patriots choose to extend a player who is making the minimum salary (Adam Butler, Ted Karras), the extension can only increase that player’s 2019 cap number, since his prorated signing bonus will now be part of his 2019 cap number.

4. Since Antonio Brown filed a grievance on October 4th about his unpaid 2019 salary amount of $750,000 forty percent of that ($300,000) will be subtracted from the Patriots salary cap in the near future. If the Pats win the grievance, they will receive a $300,000 credit on their 2020 salary cap.


The Patriots have enough cap space for the current roster but not enough if the Patriots acquire a player with a large 2019 cash number. That would require