- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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With minicamp completed, the Patriots now enter a summer hiatus of sorts prior to the start of training camp, which is expected to begin sometime in late July.
This is a time for coaches and scouts to catch their breath after an exhausting year of work, and the players will use the time to continue their physical preparations for the upcoming season. While rookies will remain in town for much of the next five to six weeks to work with the Patriots' strength and conditioning staff, the veterans are free to work out where they please.
The NFL calendar is a blitz for most of the year, but things will be quieter in advance of training camp. Things won't go silent (do they ever in the NFL?), however, and below are some events and items of note to keep an eye on between now and training camp.
1. Roster at 88 players. The Patriots have 88 players on their roster as things currently stand, two short of the maximum allowable limit. The team isn't required to fill those two spots, but they have some flexibility in the event that they decide to bolster a particular position. With such a large group of players already in tow, there's not a particular position that stands out as thin right now, though it might make some sense to bring in another body at receiver given the current mix. Former Colts wide receiver Austin Collie came in for a workout recently.
2. Cap space: $8.315 million. If the Patriots do decide to pursue a free agent, they have ample resources to make a compelling offer. As things currently stand, they have $8.315 million in cap space. Per the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, if a team does not use all of its cap space in one year, it can roll that money over to the next season.
3. Dobson yet to sign. Some of that $8.315 million will have to be budgeted for the contract of Aaron Dobson, who remains the only unsigned Patriots rookie. Rookie contracts under the new CBA are no longer the complicated process they used to be, and it's not a concern that Dobson has yet to ink his deal. Dobson was the 59th pick in this year's draft, and the 58th pick, running back Montee Ball, just signed his deal on Thursday with Denver. That could kickstart negotiations for Dobson's deal. As a reference point, the 59th pick in last year's draft, Vinny Curry, received a four-year, $3.23 million deal from the Eagles.
4. Gronk surgery. According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, tight end Rob Gronkowski is scheduled to undergo a back surgery at some point later this month. While he is unlikely to be ready for the start of training camp, it remains to be seen if Gronkowski's availability for the season opener will be put in doubt due to the procedure. The Patriots are hopeful that the procedure (in addition to a recent forearm surgery) will put to bed Gronkowski's recent run of health issues.
5. Possible staff announcements. The Patriots didn't lose any members of their coaching staff this offseason, but it was recently announced that the Eagles had hired Trey Brown as a West Coast area scout. Brown was previously an area scout for the Patriots, and it's possible the team will hire externally to replace him. There doesn't seem to be any major coaching or scouting vacancies to fill, but it's possible that the team will round out its personnel staff to account for Brown's departure.
6. Extensions. Teams can come to terms with a player on an extension at any point on the calendar, but the next month or so provides a quiet window for the Patriots brass to evaluate which players they believe are part of their future and might be worth investing in long-term. Three notable players scheduled to be free agents after next season are defensive end Rob Ninkovich, center Ryan Wendell and linebacker Brandon Spikes.