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ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 26: Alex Smith #11 of the Washington Football Team looks to pass during the second quarter of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The pool of NFL free agents always gets a lot deeper between February and March. And the 2021 season is no different. The league year doesn’t kick off until March 17, but there are already plenty of players released to the open market early, mainly for financial reasons.

With the last week before NFL free agency around the corner, the past two weeks sound like they’re just the beginning. ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported on Wednesday that an NFL head coach texted her, regarding cap casualties: “It’s going to be a massacre next week all around the league.”

Fortunately for the Patriots, they don’t have to participate in the “massacre.” They’re actually a potential beneficiary. Many teams will need to shed talent in order to create financial breathing room – New England isn’t one of those clubs. According to Miguel Benzan, the Patriots are armed with just under $62.5 million in cap space. The last time they had this much room was 2017, when they signed Stephon Gilmore at the upper end of the market.

Even so, the NFL’s “cap casualties” aren’t likely to be expensive or highly productive players. They are often vested veterans, who are around age 30 and no longer performing up to the value of the original contract. But Bill Belichick has historically identified players like these that work for the Patriots, extracting good value by signing them to affordable contracts and getting the most out of them as a coach.

Here’s a list of interesting names who are already available as of March 5. Like J.J. Watt did with the Cardinals, they’d be able to sign anywhere once the transaction becomes official on the wire, even before free agency starts.

MORE: 11 Weapons For The 2021 Patriots In Free Agency

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster 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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.