By: Andrew Ludwig (@patriotsmadness)
What is holding this trade back? Money. The Patriots just do not have the caps space to add the big, backloaded contract that Johnson is receiving. Yet there are a few things that the Patriots can do to help free up the cap space that even begins to allow to talk with Houston about trading for the Pro Bowl receiver.
The first thing they can do is cut Dan Connolly, cutting him would instantly relieve that Patriots of $2.5 million. Johnson is due $10 million this season in base salary, not including bonuses and incentives. The Patriots have $6,403,532 of free cap space right now. Freeing themselves of Connolly's salary would be a good first step to trading Johnson.
Next, they could look to resign McCourty and Gostkowski which would give them initial relief of their contacts. They could free up about $1 million from each player by resigning them with backloaded contracts. Also, it is a long shot, but they could negotiate Logan Mankins into restructuring his contract. He is due $6.25 million this year, and if the Patriots could talk him into reworking his money from base salary, into signing bonuses it would free up more space.
With all of these moves it makes the move seem unlikely to happen. The best situation for the Patriot's is that they can talk Johnson into restructuring his own contract. He would be playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback and coach, a potential elite defense, a consistent contender and a smart, creative offensive coordinator. If all of these things can't entice him to lower his price, then he will not be on a championship team.
Overall, it is a long shot for the Patriots to sign for the Pro Bowler, and the price would be hefty. Houston would look to ask for a 2nd round pick, or potentially a 3rd or 4th with Ryan Mallett being tossed into the works. If they can work this trade out, it would be a monumental boost to the Patriots receiver position, and would give the Patriots an offense similar to the Randy Moss days.