With the offseason now underway, the Patriots will expand their roster with free-agent signings and eventually draft picks. One consideration they'll make in every transaction is how a certain player fits into the financial picture for the team.
ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton noted that the Patriots project to have $18.6 million in cap space (link here), which would seem to set them up nicely as they build the roster.
At the same time, cap space is fluid, which is something Bill Belichick discussed during his season-ending press conference on Monday.
The take-home message was not to read too much into available cap space figures, as it doesn't necessarily paint an accurate picture. Furthermore, teams with more cap space in the offseason aren't necessarily in better shape than those with less space; it's about having a complete team while also managing the salary cap.
Below is the entirety of Belichick's remarks on managing the salary cap going into 2013:
"I think cap space is a very misleading term. I don’t really think it has too much meaning until you take into [account] the number of players that are not under contract with that cap space. You can have not much cap space and a lot of players under contract, or you can have a lot of cap space and not as many players under contract. I mean, who’s better? I don’t know. Each situation is different and cap space can be maneuvered, as we all know, in a number of different ways. I think the bottom line is that you collectively take a look at all your different resources and try to put together the best plan to formulate your team and develop your team throughout the entire course of the offseason. It doesn’t all happen in March. It doesn’t happen in April. It’s a continuing process that goes all the way, I would say, really into September, and each stage of it is important. Or in our case, it even went into October with the acquisition of Aqib [Talib]. But of course, we had to have our team pretty well formulated before that point; I'm not saying we waited until then, but it was still part of the process then. I’d say it’s really a six-month process that isn’t anywhere close to being finalized or certainly planned for completion at this point."