The Patriots’ 2022 draft class are now all officially Patriots. On Thursday, the team announced it has agreed to a deal with fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe, who was the final player left to sign.
Zappe’s deal is a standard four-year rookie contract worth up to $4.3 million with a $647,070 signing bonus. He’ll carry a $866,768 cap hit in 2022.
After setting multiple single-season passing records at Western Kentucky last fall, Zappe moved himself into the middle tier of quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft. In New England, he’s expected to compete with Brian Hoyer for the top backup role behind Mac Jones.
Zappe’s deal was officially announced by the team along with the two tops picks – center Cole Strange and wide receiver Tyquan Thornton – whose signings were reported over the last two days. This is almost a month earlier than the Patriots got their rookie deals signed last year, with Christian Barmore’s not coming until July 21.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Brailey Zappe throws the ball at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
While these rookie contracts have been announced by the team, they’ve yet to be made official by the league. That’s because the Patriots will need to open up some cap space in order to fit them in. ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweeted Thursday evening that fans should “expect word of a restructured deal from a respected veteran soon,” in a corresponding move.
Who are the most likely candidates for a contract restructure? Tight end Hunter Henry and linebacker Matthew Judon both have contracts that could be reworked by converting base salary into a signing bonus, which could open up more than enough money to fit all three rookies.
They could also work on a contract extension with punter Jake Bailey, who currently has a $4.1 million cap hit and is entering a contract year. Adding years on to Bailey’s current deal could drop his cap number for 2022, which is currently the second-highest among all punters in the NFL and $1 million more than the next closest player.
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