With a shrinking salary cap for the 2021 league year due to Covid (latest reports have it around $180 million) you can anticipate a bunch of belt-tightening around the NFL in the coming weeks ahead of the March 17 start of the new league year.
We took a look at the AFC this weekend. Here are some of the players in the NFC who could be cut loose by their respective team, and whether they would fit the Patriots. Remember, players released by their teams don't count against the compensatory pick formula, so expect the Patriots to go hard in this area to address some weaknesses:
LB Jaylon Smith: He was terrible in Mike Nolan's terrible scheme even if he led the team in tackles. The good news? Nolan is gone and Smith might be a much better fit in Dan Quinn's scheme. Still, he would save the Cowboys $7.2 million. Patriots fit? Yes. Went in the second round in '16 due to college ACL injury. If healthy, he's an ideal WLB.
WR Golden Tate: Has been a rough couple of seasons with Big Blue for Tate after a couple of suspensions and injuries. If the team didn't trade him at the trade deadline, they might have plans for him and he sticks. Patriots fit? Yes ... if you could tell us who the QB is going to be. We've mentioned him several times with Tom Brady, but someone else? Not sure at 33.
TE Evan Engram: Probably not going anywhere — actually a Pro Bowler and Joe Judge likes him — but he's on his fifth-year option and he's had the drops. Patriots fit? Yes. Have you seen their TE depth chart? Engram has also been on our list for a while.