BOSTON (CBS) — Before the team received a nice chunk of cap space because eight players opted out of the season due to COVID concerns, the Patriots were a little cash-strapped during the offseason. Moves they had made in previous years had come home to roost — including $13.5 million in Tom Brady’s signing bonus — and it left the 2020 Patriots with little wiggle room.
Or as Bill Belichick referred to it on Monday: The Patriots “sold out” to win some Super Bowls.
Last week, Belichick said that the team was playing more young players this season because of the salary cap limitations they had over the offseason. Those limitations led to a lack of movement over the summer, which was highlighted by a one-year, prove-it-to-me deal for quarterback Cam Newton in early July.
On Monday, Belichick stood by his thoughts on the cap limiting what the Patriots could do, and said that the team was handcuffed because of their moves from previous seasons. Moves they made to win a trio of Super Bowls since 2014.
“I mean, look, we paid Cam Newton $1 million. It’s obvious that we didn’t have any money,” Belichick told WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria. “It’s nobody’s fault. That’s what we did the last five years. We sold out. We won three Super Bowls, played in a fourth and played in an AFC Championship Game.
“This year we had less to work with. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact,” Belichick added.
That may be one of the first times — ever — that Bill Belichick has pointed to the scoreboard. But with his 2020 Patriots sitting at 2-5, that’s all he really has at the moment.
The Patriots had just over $1 million in cap space — the second-lowest figure across the NFL — entering the offseason. That was largely thanks to $26 million in dead cap money, the bulk of which went towards past deals with Brady ($13.5 million), Antonio Brown ($4.5 million), Michael Bennett ($2 million) and kicker Stephen Gostkwoski ($1.4 million).
Stephon Gilmore ($26 million), Joe Thuney ($14.7 million with the franchise tag) and Shaq Mason ($8.7 million) have the biggest cap hits on New England’s ledger.
New England’s cap number got a little bit better after eight players opted out of the season due to COVID-19, giving the Patriots just over $35 million before the start of training camp. But by then, there really weren’t any worthwhile free agents out there, and the Patriots had already given Newton his team-friendly pact.
For Belichick, the price of winning in the past is now taking away from the success in the present. Unfortunately, that past glory isn’t going to help this year’s squad win many football games.