New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 13: A view of New England Patriots helmets before the game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The Patriots’ roster has been full at 90 players pretty much consistently since the draft. Every time they’ve let a player go, a corresponding move had been made to fill that spot.

That being said, another opening should be coming soon. Thanks to a quirk in the way NFL contracts work, the team should be opening up a spot any day now.

  • Although Devin McCourty announced his retirement back in March, that move still isn’t official in the eyes of the league – and for good reason. The NFL uses June 1 as somewhat of a cutoff date for contracts, and the financial ramifications of removing a player from a roster can change around that date.

    McCourty’s contract fits into that category. Had the Patriots made McCourty’s retirement official with the league back in March, they’d be locked into carrying a cap hit of over $9 million for the 2023 season. By making that moves after June 1, that cap hit is spread out over 2023 and 2024.

    As ESPN’s Mike Reiss pointed out on Thursday,  that June 1 deadline is upon us. The Patriots can now make the McCourty move official, and have their cap adjusted accordingly.

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  • The downside of playing this waiting game is that, until the Patriots process McCourty’s retirement he remains on the active roster. Despite announcing his retirement a week before NFL Free Agency began, he’s been holding onto one of 90 roster spots through free agency and the draft.

    There’s a strong argument to be made that for the money saved, it’s worth giving up that roster spot temporarily. Many NFL teams take advantage of this loophole. For instance, the Cleveland Browns will clear $10 million in cap space their their June 1 cuts.

    Once McCourty’s release is official, the Patriots can once again add to their roster. How will they use that spot?

  • Many fans’ minds right go to the biggest name in free agency right now – wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Sure it’s possible the Patriots could sign Hopkins – they’re reportedly interested in doing so – but reading McCourty’s official retirement as a sign a Hopkins move is imminent would be incorrect.

    Even if they don’t land Hopkins, the Patriots could add another receiver for depth in camp. They currently have eight players on their roster at the position (not including Matthew Slater), which is fewer than they normally have at this time of year.

    Linebacker is another spot to watch. After placing Raekwon McMillan on IR last month, the team signed a tight end in Anthony Firkser. If they feel like they still want to get their linebacker depth back to where it was, this could be the spot to do it.

    Finally, don’t count out a safety to take McCourty’s spot. Re-signing Jalen Mills and moving him to safety was the closest the Patriots got to adding anybody at the position this offseason.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at

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