New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 04: Rex Burkhead #34 of the New England Patriots carries the ball against the Tennessee Titans in the second quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

It’s the way of winning with the New England Patriots. Show up to work, do your job, and you’ll have a great chance of success in January and February. And also you might need to give us a little money back when we need it.

These seemingly inconsequential moves are for the greater good, and a sneaky-big reason why 28-3 happened. Do the Patriots come back against the Falcons if Danny Amendola doesn’t hit them with a fat reimbursement to avoid getting cut?

If Cam Newton transforms back into an MVP candidate and grabs the Pats a surprise seventh Lombardi, we may end up asking the same question about Rex Burkhead.

It wouldn’t have been the most fair move, or perhaps the best for the football team, if the Patriots just outright cut Burkhead. He was arguably the team’s best all-around running back in 2019. But damn if the team isn’t strapped to the asscheeks financially. If they wanted to keep Burkhead and create some necessary cap space, Burkhead had to give a little back.

Rex Burkhead has taken a salary reduction with the Patriots, freeing up cap space to facilitate the Cam Newton signing. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Rex Burkhead has taken a salary reduction with the Patriots, freeing up cap space to facilitate the Cam Newton signing. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

So that’s what he’s done. As ESPN’s Field Yates reported Tuesday morning, Burkhead has taken a salary reduction from $2.5 million to $1.05 million. His max roster bonuses dropped from $500,000 to $400,000. He did get a $550,000 signing bonus as part of the restructuring, but the reality is he’s doing Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ books a solid.

According to Yates, the move created $981,250 in cap space. The go-to Patriots cap source, Miguel Benzan, has his new total space at $1,244,739. Accounting for Newton’s likely-to-be-earned incentives and the inevitable necessity to make signings or trades during the season, it’s likely there will need to be more maneuvering.

Let this be a mini-lesson, kids. Yes, cap space “can be maneuvered in a number of different ways,” as a wise old curmudgeon once said. But you also want to maximize your ability to maneuver, and at some point the bills come due for someone. The complicated departure of Tom Brady and the utter disaster that was the Antonio Brown signing have hampered Belichick for 2020.

Unfortunately, Burkhead is the one to have to take the brunt of that reality. Might not be the only one, either. But the potential payoff is what will keep these deals happening and maintain the Patriots’ roster as one of the healthiest middle classes in football.

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.