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Sep 23, 2018; Glendale, AZ: Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson reacts against the Chicago Bears after a play at State Farm Stadium. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

Sep 23, 2018; Glendale, AZ: Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson reacts against the Chicago Bears after a play at State Farm Stadium. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Important to get this out of the way up front. Miguel Benzan, the go-to guy for Patriots salary cap info and writer for the Boston Sports Journal, did the heavy lifting and deserves a lot of credit. His column on the Patriots and those Patrick Peterson rumors are well worth your time.

But the long and short of it is this: the Patriots can find a way to fit Peterson under their cap. They’re not in “cap jail”, because that’s not really a thing if you’re smart, which the Patriots are.

In case you missed it, the dynamic Cardinals cornerback is reportedly desperate to be traded. His cousin, Bryant McFadden, tweeted on Monday that the Patriots are among the teams showing interest. The Saints were also on that list, but they traded for Giants corner Eli Apple on Tuesday so they’re probably out of the running.

The Patriots don’t necessarily need another cornerback. Linebacker or safety would make more sense as a defensive addition. But Peterson is the caliber of player that you at least need to think about when he becomes available.

So naturally, Peterson-to-the-Patriots is of course going to be a hot topic. And as you might expect, it also devolved in some circles into a debate about the salary cap.

Trade rumors, especially involving an expensive star player like Peterson, almost always turn into a cap conversation. If you’re a fan of 98.5 The Sports Hub, you’ve most certainly heard Michael Felger squawk “The cap is crap!” incessantly. It’s a catchy phrase that a lot of exuberant listeners like to parrot. On the other side of that fence is those who preach cap management as a supremely important tenet of team-building. How would they ever fit this guy under the cap!?

The truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle. We all know how uncomfortable the middle can be, because it’s reasonable and measured. This is the internet, dammit, and you need to have opinions and pick sides.

Only sensible opinion to have on the cap in the NFL, however, is to echo Bill Belichick’s now-famous quote, “Cap space can be maneuvered in a number of different ways.”

Aug 24, 2018; Charlotte, NC: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his offense during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

Aug 24, 2018; Charlotte, NC: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches his offense during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

Many take that phrase as “See? Bill knows the cap is all made up and doesn’t mean anything #CapIsCrap”. That’s excessive. What Belichick is really saying is “I mean, it’s not hard to avoid cap jail, but maneuvers still need to be made.”

It can be done, but things need to be done. Is it OK to have that take?

No, the cap is not a useless pile of excrement. But it’s not an impenetrable fortress, either. Sorry if that’s too much fence-sitting for you, but it’s true.

Back to Benzan’s column. It outlines four things the Patriots could do to afford Peterson’s cap hit of just under $15 million. One of them they’ve already done, as they’ve restructured Stephon Gilmore’s deal to lower his cap number. But they’d probably have to do it with at least another player.

Other options include extending a current player (Miguel suggests Stephen Gostkowski) with a lower salary to stretch the cap hit further and lower the annual amount, and simply jettisoning another player on the roster. These aren’t easy decisions, but they are decisions that Belichick could make. Point is, despite the Patriots’ cap crunch, Belichick’s hands aren’t completely tied.

So don’t let anyone tell you the Patriots can’t get Peterson because of the cap. But don’t let anyone tell you they can just bring in Peterson for nothing, either. There’s still work to be done. It’s just not easy.

But it’s possible.

So try the middle ground here. It’s a nice place, free of scorching takes and over-the-top insults. It’s OK to envision Peterson with the Flying Elvis on his helmet.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.