There has been a ton of speculation and opinion swirling around Rex Burkhead for most of the offseason. Funny enough, a lot of the opinion did not come from the media, but more the New England Patriots fanbase. A lot of people were wondering if Burkhead would still be a Patriot come September, or would Belichick release or trade him. After restructuring his pay cheque today, I think it’s safe to say, we should expect to see number 34 when the regular season starts in New England.
The Patriots and Burkhead were able to restructure his contract, and free up some much needed cap space. Burkhead gets a fully-guaranteed $550,000 bonus to sign the new pact, while both his base salary and roster bonuses get changed: instead of making $2.5 million in salary, the veteran is now earning $1.05 million; his roster bonuses decreased from $500,000 to $400,000. The restructure, which essentially can be seen as a pay-cut, in turn frees up $981,250 in additional salary cap space for the Patriots.
This was one of those much needed moves by the Patriots, prior to this deal, New England was sitting with just about $265,000 in cap space. According to Pats Cap, the Patriots didn’t have enough money to start the season when all the player bonuses kicked in.
We’ve seen Belichick make a similar move a few weeks ago when he extended Patrick Chung, but of course a good chunk of that saved money went towards signing veteran quarterback Cam Newton.
There have been other cap saving measures suggested in the media over the last few weeks, including: extending or trading Dont’a Hightower and extending Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots are carrying about $20 million in dead cap, a majority of that money is a gift left behind from Tom Brady when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Some fans on Twitter have suggested that Belichick reworked Burkhead’s contract because he is going to make another move, but at this time that doesn’t seem to be feasible. The Patriots needed that cap security, and this just seemed like a way for Belichick to free up money, money to have in his pocket, not spend on a free agent or to make a trade.
It’s likely we’ll see Belichick make more contract moves over the next few weeks. Belichick likes to have money to operate with during the season, and with the cap he has remaining, it could still be eaten up by bonuses.